Friday, December 21, 2012

Well, now what am I going to do?



Perhaps it is hubris for me to assume- post 12:10 GMT- that we are all in the clear.  Given the fact that the Mayans had no abacuses, TI-85's, crazy 80's Swatch watches, or even rudimentary search engines like Ask Jeeves!, I suppose they could have been off by a couple hours.  As soon as I walk into my favorite local Quik-e-Mart to discover they have, indeed, run out of Tahitian Treat, then I will know that shit is going down and I exhaled far too soon.

But, in the far-more likely scenario that the Mayans- like any myriad doomsday soothsayers- were a bunch of wackadoos, I'm left on this brisk Friday morning with one burning question:

What the hell am I supposed to do now?  I had an action-packed day planned of jumping over lava flows, escaping crumbling metropolises with my family in a conveniently hot-wired sports car (daredevil, hair-pin turns aplenty), and smashing zombie heads with whatever blunt-force objects were available.

Not to mention this extensive list of things I always wanted to do before I die:
  • Punch the "Napa Know-How" guy in the face.
  • Get a giant checkerboard, with one set of checker pieces being McDonald's "Filet-O-Fish" sandwiches, and the other set being Krystal cheeseburgers.  Upon jumping over the opponent's checker piece, it is quickly consumed.  When you get the other end and are to be "kinged" (since the captured pieces are already consumed), you instead get a high-five from King Curtis.
  • Buy several intangible services (like massages and psychiatric evaluation), then ask to return the merchandise for refund, because I "have the receipt, and it hasn't been 90 days since purchase".
  • Grow an impressive parsnip garden.
  • Jump high in the air, fist pumped to the sky in celebration (as if at the end of a feel-good 80's movie), and have everything freeze-frame.
  • Watch an entire episode of the WB's Reba.
  • Throw a pizza like a frisbee to be fetched by a life-like robotic dog.
  • Live to see if Svedka really is voted the #1 Vodka of 2033.
  • Go to jail, and then when the biggest, baddest guy in the prison asks me to be his bitch, I slap him in the face with a fresh, dolphin-safe tuna, then yell "beep beep" and speed out of there like the Roadrunner.
  • Finally finish that last, tearjerking chapter of Jesse Ventura's I Ain't Got Time to Bleed.
  • Watch all the 2-D movies in existence while wearing 3-D glasses.
  • Eat an entire, live pig in the manner a python would.
Well, I guess I can still do all this stuff.  But, in the proud tradition of procrastination and regret, I suppose I will wait until the next doomsday prophecy.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Structure (one of many words those in the wine world take for granted)




It's a horribly-outdated pic of my daughter.  But this whole blawg is pretty outdated.  Unfortunately, my involvement in the wine biz, along with simultaneous forays into both bodybuilding and competitive eating have left me with little time to write.  Between trade tastings, blasting my quads, and shoving 50+ hot dogs into my gullet in sub-5 minute intervals, keeping things updated has been priority four.

There aren't many questions I cannot answer confidently when talking wine with a crowd of eager enthusiasts.  Not that I'm the alpha-male of wine knowledge.  Far from it.  In fact, like any obsessive endeavor one jumps into, I've learned only how much I know I don't know, and the rabbit-holes of viticulture and oenology go on and on and on.  Like the game of golf, or the world of Pokemon, wine expertise surely takes a lifetime to master.

That said, I think I can hold my own.  So, when I really can't answer a question well, a need to investigate the subject-matter is ignited.  One such instance occurred when I was presented with this humdinger a couple weeks ago at a tasting event:

"So, when you say this wine has good 'structure', what exactly do you mean?"

I found myself pausing, then coming up with an incongruent rambling, involving mentions of tannin, acidity, and blathering about the wine having "angles" rather than amorphous-ness.  Whatever the hell it was, the question was poorly answered, and I probably left a wine lover- yearning for sense in this quagmire- more confused than before.

I guess I just took the concept of Structure in wine for granted.  In the lexicon of the wine peddler/blogger/advocate/enthusiast, structure is just something we seem to know.  Wines have it, or they don't.  While generally regarded as a positive quality, digging into the "why" lends explanation.  It wasn't until I came across an article from Wine Spectator's Matt Kramer (who is pretty much the only guy I care to read in that fish-wrapper) that things started to delineate for me.

The easy (and- according the Kramer- false) explanation of structure insinuates that a wine with lots of tannin has "good" structure.  However, tannin is only one piece of the puzzle.

Let's think of wines as buildings.  A straw hut, a teepee, a sand castle... none of these will hold up over time.  However, an edifice built on a good foundation, with good materials and craftsmanship, can stand the test of time.  Or huffing, puffing wolves, should you be a little piggy.

So, when considering that angle, a "structured" wine is a wine that tastes as if it has the ability to age.  This could mean a wine has ample tannin, but the insinuation that tannin is necessary falls flat when we consider that many white wines are built to age (as tannins come from the skins, seeds, and stems of the vine, and- often to a lesser extent- the wood vessel in which many wines are aged).  However, many age-worthy whites (fine German Rieslings comes to mind) spend little-to-no time on the skins, and never see the inside of a barrel.  How, then, can they be structured; a concept determined necessary to cellar for long periods of time?

Rather, a combination of grape tannin, wood tannin, acidity (in the case of the aforementioned Riesling), residual sugar, alcohol, and phenolic ripeness comes together to provide the foundation for a wine.  Sure, tannins act as preservatives, but so does ample acidity, sugar, and alcohol.  When all these elements are in harmony, a wine is said to have good "balance".

To this end, "balanced" wines are "structured" wines, right?  Well... not necessarily.  With good reason, you probably want to punch me right now.

I've tasted excellently balanced wines that should not be aged.  They drink at their peak in youth.  Sticking to my guns, I cannot say that those wines are necessarily "structured", but they are "balanced".  Good New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, many Beaujolais, and plenty of California wines fall into this category (to my tastes, anyway).

After distilling the information, here is the best way I can explain structure:

  • Structure in wine- like a properly constructed building- is the foundation of elements within that will allow the wine to age elegantly over time.
  • Some element of preservative- whether tannin, acidity, alcohol (in the case of fortified wines), sugar, or a combination of all- needs be present in good quantity for a wine to age.
  • Structured wines should be balanced (or taste as if they will come into balance with age), but balanced wines need not necessarily to be structured.

With practice (meaning, tasting a lot of wine), one will be able to better understand if a young wine has the elements necessary to age well.  This practical application should to a better understanding of structure.  Especially since your palate is different from mine, or anyone else's.

Heaven knows that exercise will be more helpful than this sub-par attempt at explanation.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Taco that Launched A Thousand Insults



I predict that, not since the bitter feud of the mid-90's between California's Death Row Records and New York's Bad Boy Records, there will be such a vicious and visceral divide among the two coasts for a long time.

Forget Giants/49ers... amateur hour.

Real Housewives of Orange County sparring with Real Housewives of New Jersey?  Please.

This one is between the 'burbs of Atlanta and the backwoods outside of Portland, Oregon.  And it was all started over a taco.

Let me say, before I bury my claws, that I find Beau Carufel (head honcho at Beau's Barrel Room) to be a genuinely nice fellow.  He's a diligent and well-respected wine blogger, a true wine lover, and, up until recently, I would dare say I considered him a friendly acquaintance amidst the sea of wine writers and bloggers.

Now, I'm not one to get offended by people regurgitating vapid political beliefs on Facebook.  I don't mind when Betsy's 13th adorable child is born, and Betsy has to post 500 pics of the actual birth on Facebook, which get pushed to the forefront of my timeline, because 6000 other wives with 13 children have to comment with, "OMG!  OHHHHH.  SO CUTE!!!!! :) :)".

Profanity, crude jokes, pictures of bacon, and even MEMEs (pushing it, MEMEs) are tolerable.  But, earlier this week, there was a particular update from the charlatan in question that set me off:


Oh, shit.  Ring the bell.  The "taco" bell, if you will.

Typical left-coast, weak-stomached whining, Beau.  For a guy originally from Long Island (or New Jersey, or somewhere up there), I can't believe how soft you've become.

First off, Taco Bell is awesome.  I ate two 99¢ Chicken Burritos last night, and then measured my biceps this morning, and I'm pretty sure they grew like 4".  Granted, I've never measured them before, but it really happened.  Furthermore, I'd been sipping on Txakolina Roja, Sancerre, Bugey, and Grower Champagne prior to my meal... obscure, European wines built to go with food.  Know what I wanted to eat after sipping on all these exciting, subtle, elegant European wines?  Taco Bell.  Food and wine DO go together, you know.  700 million Europeans and centuries of proud winemaking tradition can't be wrong.  But you, smugly, seem to think the contrary.

And, the money I saved on these delicious, affordable burritos, left me extra to spurge on a Beef Mexi-melt.  Culinary symphony, the mexi-melt.  And not just on the East Coast (ain't that right, Samantha Dugan?).  Yeah, I know the dreadlocked trust-funder hocking you $9 burritos at the Forest Grove Tuesday Farmers' Market says they're made from heavily-petted, hand-massaged, free-range organic heirloom-breed chickens.  But you and I both know he spent all his money trying to score weed from the local marionberry farmer, and bought his chicken at the same supermarket, from the same vendor who supplies Taco Bell.



But I digress.  Let's step back and dissect your hollow witch-hunt against Eat This, Not That's second favorite fast food mecca, where two distinct errors in judgement stick out like a mild Border Sauce packet among a fistful of Fire Sauce:

1)  Ordering plain, hard shell tacos is a rookie mistake.  At least get the Doritos® Locos taco.  Or a taco supreme, brimming with dairy-fresh sour cream and off-the-vine tomatoes.  But, you went with plain tacos.  Hey, a lot of people order vanilla ice cream at Baskin-Robbins.  And they're boring as hell.

2)  You ordered a "couple" of tacos.  I assume that to be two items.  Unless you're digging into the glorious monstrosity that is Chef Lorena Garcia's Cantina Bell burrito, then two items is the order of a waif runway model.  And you, sir, are not that waif.

Or, is it as simple as you hating Johnny Cash?  That's downright un-American.



In summation, I guess some folks just lack the DNA to Live Más.  But don't shove it in my face.  The great thing about America is choice.  Keep your anti-awesome and nourishing taco agenda to yourself, sir.

I will continue making runs to the Border.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dry?



When is a wine really dry?  What is dry?  

There are dry climates, meaning that humidity is relatively low.

There are dry senses of humor.  Steven Wright has one.  Jeff Dunham does not.  Incidentally, Jeff Dunham doesn't have humor, either.

In wine, however (or beer, or spirits), "dry" refers to the absence of residual sugar in a drink.  To simplify, take the classic kid-making-Kool-Aid example:  to make a batch of delicious Kool-Aid, one combines the tiny packet of purple with 2 heaping cups of sugar and 2 quarts of water.  However, as I kid, I didn't realize that anything beyond the packet of purple and water was needed.  I ended up with purple-colored acid water.  Sure, I tried to sell it as "Kool-Aid Dry", but my 5-year-old friends had really unsophisticated palates...

...hillbillies.

So far, so good?  A wine without the presence of residual sugar (meaning actual fruit sugar left over in the wine that was not converted to carbon dioxide and alcohol by yeast during fermentation; or, sugar added to a dry wine after fermentation, as in the case of süssreserve) is "dry".  Otherwise, a wine with sugar present might be called "off-dry" or "sweet" or "Arbor Mist".*


Yet, in my very important day-to-day business dealings, I have many folks tell me that dry wines taste sweet, and many others are extraordinarily dry.  In the case of the former, a wine with a great deal of ripe fruit flavor can be perceived by our palates as being sweet.  However, said fruit-forward wine may contain little or no residual sugar, therefore- technically- it's dry.  'Tis a very difficult concept to explain without making someone feel like a dumb-ass or coming off like a jerk-ass.  But a very fair observation for any fledgling wine lover to make.

An extraordinarily common misconception is when a person thinks a wine is "dry", when, in fact, it is "drying".  Remember:  in wine terms, "dry" is the absence of sugar.  But when drinking a wine makes one's mouth lockjaw like a rusty nail to the foot, that is a product of tannin.  That fuzzy feeling in your mouth after drinking a young Cabernet Sauvignon?  Tannin.  

Tannins are basically astringent compounds that exist in grape seeds, skins, and stems, and in wood (like oak barrels).  They add structure to wines, pleasant bitterness, and lend to color.  However, tannins bind to proteins and precipitate.  As human saliva contains proteins, these tannic phenolic compounds basically bind to our saliva, giving the sensation of drying out our mouths.  So, if you are someone who is insecure about your "wine speak" (and 99% of it is B.S. anyway, so don't be uptight), the formula is simple:

Refer to a wine in which you sense no presence of sugar as "dry"

Refer to a wine which dries your mouth out as "tannic"

Of course, anyone who gives you a hard time about using the proper terminology when discussing wine should get a Champagne cork to the nuts.  But, I understand it's import for people to feel comfortable with their wine, and this is a nice, valuable tidbit to know.

Another tidbit:  don't feed your cat Arbor Mist.

*I don't mean for this comment to suggest that sweet wines are of poor quality.  Some of the finest (and most expensive) wines in the world are quite sweet.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

40 Days of Writing


Perhaps in an effort to reinvigorate my writing efforts, I've accepted a challenge from Kate Graham (of Dirty and Rowdy Family Winery) to put pen to paper every day for 40 days.  It's a great idea; I do believe that writing is like exercising (neither of which I'm very good at), and repetition and consistent effort strengthens the brain and the writing style.  Let's call it training.

Whether well-thought out, or just dribble on the sheet, putting my thoughts to paper is a positive exercise, some I'm looking forward to the challenge.  But it's not without conflict:  I'll be in situations where I'm not near a computer for days at a time (like this past weekend), so my "writing" could appear negligent on the blawg every day.  At the very least, I intend to scrawl things on cocktail napkins or golf score card or something.  Such was the case this past weekend.  And my writing ended up being things written on golf balls in permanent marker.  I wrote "Gangnam Style" on one.  Does that count?

I didn't write on this actual one.  But I wouldn't surprise myself if I wrote "poop"
 on my golf ball (source: http://imposium.wordpress.com/category/picture-this/)
Anyway, it's not a perfect road, and it does require discipline, but I'm glad to put this exercise into practice, and I hope it gets me back on track.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Is Georgia Willing its Teams to Lose?


source:  nbcsports.com
No, it's not a wine-related post.  But, the subject matter has certainly led to a bunch of drinking.

Last Saturday, I witness my then-fifth ranked Dawgs get absolutely bulldozed on national TV by rival South Carolina.  I haven't felt that uncomfortable viewing since I took Dad to see Brokeback Mountain because I know he's fond of Westerns.

Only 24 hours earlier, I poured another drink to unsuccessfully stave off the déjà vu of Atlanta Braves collapse in the MLB postseason.  The best defensive baseball team in 2012 committed three crucial errors, including one by lame duck future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones.  Everything that could go wrong did, including a freak show, phantom infield fly rule.  But, somehow, I knew it would happen.

source:  Associated Press
These are scenarios that have become all-too-familiar for sports fans in Atlanta.  Even the resurgent Falcons can't win in the playoffs, even when they're the #1 seed- like in the 2010 season- and always seem to run into a buzz saw; a "team of destiny".  In the past four seasons, the Falcons have made the playoffs 3 times, played teams with much worse regular-season records, and all 3 of those teams ended up in the Super Bowl, and 2 won in all (Green Bay in 2011, New York in 2012).

Some may dismiss my claims.  "But your teams are at least making it to the playoffs, or having winning seasons."  But honestly, is it worse to be perennially terrible, or just terrible when it really counts?  Great teams keep winning.  Bad teams get fixed.  Mediocre teams get mired in staying the course and hoping the ball bounces the other way next time.  It's maddening.  A local sports radio host made a great analogy:  Georgia sports teams are Lucy, pulling the football away from the fans' Charlie Brown every time.


Who is to blame?

Not the teams.  On paper, they have all the talent.  Not the coaches... they're not the ones on the field.  Certainly not the officials, no matter how the hell an infield fly rule can be called in the middle of the outfield.

No, the finger is pointed squarely at you (and me), the fans.  And my reasoning, much like biodynamics (shameless wine reference), is, admittedly, a little "cosmic".

Search the web, and you'll find thousands of references to the concept of the Universe in synergy.  Even Einstein suggested that we are all connected.  The mysterious power of Prayer has been exalted by millions.  Often, it sounds like a bunch of hooey, but if the best measure of a concept's credibility is its popularity, then the critical mass is there.


So, what if 6 million people in Metro Atlanta truly believed that their sports teams are going to eventually fail, "just like they always do"?  Is it reasonable to suggest that the fans are projecting negative energy onto the gridiron or the baseball diamond, and the teams are absorbing and converting those bad vibes into bad play?  One of the biggest cliches and most common sound bytes heard from victorious athletes is that the team "fed off the energy of the fans".  No matter how rollicking the crowd in the stadium, perhaps the majority outside is superseding any good energy, somehow- in some weird metaphysical way- causing these teams to inevitably lose.

It's time for good vibes.  Georgia fans:  you are needed immediately (well, you have a bye week to choke down this astrological jive, but then it's time to get in line).  The Braves, Falcons, and Hawks have some time, so start depositing those positive thoughts in the good vibes bank, and prepare to withdraw when the time is right.  What have we got to lose?  Nothing but disappointment.

And for all those insisting on being negative, there are plenty of Cleveland sports teams selling stylish and affordable merchandise.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mixing Kids and Wino Weekend Warriors


Back in August, I solicited the interwebs for insight on bringing a toddler out to wine country.  I was about to head to Oregon's Willamette Valley with a motley crew of parents, kids, wives (well, wife... she's put forth ZERO effort to find any sister wives).  Having made the trip to Sonoma with an infant who, well, pretty much slept the whole time, I was unsure how accommodating an industry of escape-from-the-day-to-day would be towards a critter bouncing off the walls.


Turns out, it can be done.  In fact, quite easily.  Granted, the trip has to deviate a bit from bacchanalian booze cruise, but no one wants to see you naked and dripping with wine anyway.  Okay, I do, but for the purposes of this family-friendly post, let's say I don't.

Got kids, but love wine travel?  Here are some tried-and-true pointers that make the trip as harmonious as Champagne paired with chicken nuggets:

1)  Do a little research.  Visit the websites of Vintners' associations in the respective area you plan to tour.  Many offer lists of the number of "family friendly" wineries.  Some places are just more laid-back than others.  In my experience, places like Sonoma County (CA), Willamette Valley (OR), Eastern Washington, and Santa Barbara County (CA) are more down-to-Earth, so they're not as uptight about kids running around.  The Napas of the world are great to visit, but may be a little high-strung.  Of course, that's a sweeping generalization, so you can always...

2)  Call ahead.  Find the wineries you want to visit, and simply call ahead or email to make sure they are kid-friendly.  Some are very sensitive of their adult guests, and don't want toddlers running around and screaming.  Granted, I've seen plenty of adults running around and screaming at the fifth tasting of the day.  Not me, mostly because I can't see myself.  Anyway, a quick conversation with the winery can eliminate all doubt and apprehension about showing up to a classy joint with a kid on a leash.  You don't use those kid-leashes, do you?

3)  Rent a house.  There are tons of wine country homes for rent on websites like VRBO.  By renting a house, you eliminate the need to have to eat out for every meal, so there's no need to worry about kids behaving at swanky restaurants (though there are many family-friendly ones around).  Bonus point:  wine country is an agricultural area, so there tends to be extraordinary produce and other vittles available.  By renting a house, you have access to a kitchen.  Just don't screw up those lovely ingredients if you're a terrible cook.

4)  Bring activities, and abuse technology.  Got an iPad?  Invest in Netflix streaming, and some good 3G service.  You can plop your kid in the corner with a few Disney movies and let the babysitter do its magic.  There are also special earphones for kids with noise protection.  Are you a hipster who hates technology?  A bag full of coloring books can do wonders.  I recommend the markers that can only write on the special paper in the books.  Crayon draws anywhere.


4)  Solicit traveling babysitters.  I know not everyone can do this, but I bribed my parents into coming along on the trip.  We rented a big house and they helped chip in to watch the little one.  The wife and I even got away for some tastings by ourselves.  I only recommend this move if Thanksgiving is a joyful experience for you.  Otherwise, there are lots of websites like care.com that can help you find a local babysitter.  You can trust that sitter with your kid, but hide those good bottles of wine.

5)  Mix in some non-wine tasting days.  Wine Country always has so much besides wine to offer.  Working farms, nearby oceans, berry-picking, festivals, farmers' markets, breweries, balloon rides, hiking, etc. seem to always offer creative alternatives to spend your money.  We spent a full day out on the Oregon coast (most of it winding through that damn coastal range), and didn't miss wine tasting a bit.


Look at that happy tike.  Still not convinced it can be done?  

Have fun in Disney World, you flake.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Recanting (not Decanting)


In the spirit of a Presidential Election Year*, I'm completely changing my position on something.

A while back, during the Olympics, I wrote a post positing which singular wine each country would nominate as representation in a worldwide competition.  Like a Greco-Roman wrestling tournament of the wine world, with less slathering of bodies with olive oil, and even more awkward groping (I mean, have you ever been to a massive, wine-trade tasting?).

I'd reference a link to said post, but it's not that freaking hard to ferret out one of my 2012 posts.  My writing's been more sporadic than Honey Boo Boo's blood sugar level (who, yes, is from Georgia.  Son of a biscuit).

Anyway, I said that Italy would put up Brunello di Montalcino, a Tuscan wine made from a very specific clone of the Sangiovese grape.  My decision gave all-due-respect to the prodigious, Nebbiolo-based wines of Barolo and Barbaresco.  However, I argued that Sangiovese is the most ancient, rustic, "true" Italian red grape, and Brunello is said grape's most ethereal expression.

I've tasted a sea of Italian wine over the past month.  While what I've tasted is only a small sampling, and not necessarily an adequate sample-set of all the great Brunellos out there, I can only work with the evidence I have.

Barolo- at least at this very moment in my mind- is the king of Italy.  While I don't stray from my sentiment that Sangiovese feels more "ancient and rustic", the Nebbiolo grape offers so much complexity.  On the nose, in the wine's formidable structure (belying it's lighter color); these wines just scream, "I am going to constantly evolve.  I will keep you guessing.  I will always be exciting."  

Well, they don't actually scream that.  They're actually very quiet, as long as we're speaking literally.

Anyway, to all you folks who jumped down my throat about selecting Brunello over Barolo:  I was wrong.  At least at this very moment.  But I'm very fickle.  As I should be.  Election year, bitches.

*for the record, Election Years are my least-favorite years.  If I knew which year an asteroid is going to smash into Earth and destroy all plant and animal life, I might pick that one as my least-favorite.  But it would be a tough call.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wine [Country] for Kids



Back in 2010, the wife (for legal purposes, "the wife" referring to either current wife or any future wives thereafter, as to preserve the legitimacy of said post) and I headed out to San Francisco for a wedding, 4-month-old in tow.  After the wedding, we sojourned to Healdsburg in northern Sonoma county for a few days to soak in the wine culture.  As it was early September in the Dry Creek Valley, temperatures soared into the 100's, leaving us with no choice to abandon our original plan of leaving the kid in the car to sleep while we attended tasting rooms.

...

...geez, I'm kidding.  We weren't ever planning on leaving the kid in the car.  I post a picture of a kid slugging from a wine glass, tastelessly joke about leaving my infant in a hot car, and suddenly I'm flagged as a "terrible parent".  Sensitivity!

In actuality, we knew touring wine country with an infant was a gamble.  Truth be told, many Napa tasting rooms let me know ahead of time that we would not be welcomed with bundle-of-joy attached.  Fortunately, she was a trooper, spending most of her time sleeping in her Graco Snugride® 22, while we sampled the wares of Northern California.  And, since you already think I'm a dreadful parent, be assured that I was always maintaining sobriety during the daily tours, as to safely squire my fair ladies around the Dry Creek and beyond.  Such a gentleman.

Admittedly, infants are pretty easy.  You keep the diapers changed, supply them with a bottle, and they pretty much sleep all the time.  Furthermore, they can't move, especially at 4 months.  If you put an infant in one place, she stays in place.  They're like tiny versions of video gamers.  Our gamble paid off, and the experience was both wonderful for us and not upsetting to the little one.


However, as we head back to wine country next week (Oregon's Willamette Valley in this case), the 4 month old has blossomed into a rambunctious 2+ year old.  Full of energy, rarely napping, and always looking for something to get into.  Don't get me wrong:  she's one of the best-behaved 2 year olds I've ever seen, and does very well in our favorite hotels and restaurant-type places.  But... she's two.  Take my mental capacity and immaturity and put it into a small body with boundless pep.  Trouble brewing...

So, as I am in the wine industry, I do wish to be especially respectful of those in the tasting rooms and vineyards.  I assumed the best course of action is to just call ahead to any places I'd like to visit and make sure that they're fine with kids.  That said, I don't like to stick to an itinerary.  There are certainly articles on the web documenting the most "kid friendly" wineries, but I didn't find many that seemed to serve "jaded, snobby, wine rep- friendly" wines that I desire to try (okay, I'm not that bad, but most seemed to be places that are already well-distributed back home, and I want to try new things).

To this end, in a brilliant stroke of persuasion, I've invited my parents to join us on the trip.  Mostly, I wanted to share the wine country experience with them.  As a pleasant side-effect, they've offered to act as babysitter when necessary.

With all the scenarios in place, I'm reaching out to those who have had the wine country experience with toddlers.  I love sharing vacation experiences with my whole family, but would we be best-served leaving our child with my parents and tasting alone (my wife and I)?  I don't want my folks to miss out on the experience either.  Do we visit some places alone, and bring the kid to others that seem like they can handle it?  Or, do we skip wine and enjoy Oregon's... uh, I don't know... marionberry farms?

Ultimately, I'm not worried, and I know the whole adventure will be wonderful.  But I am interested and eager to solicit any insights from those with prior experience.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympic Spirit(s)


What if the medals won by wines actually meant something?
With the 30th games of the Olympiad now underway, my television will be on at all times, showcasing young people in peak-physical condition participating in a collection of competitive sport, meant to spread goodwill worldwide.

Sitting on my couch, observing the physical perfection of superior athletes who likely spend very little time on the couch, I immediately feel inspired to raise my game, go out for a run, eat better, and make positive changes in my life...

...and then I get to thinking about how I can incorporate booze into watching the Games.  Being a man of purity of focus, the latter consumes my thoughts and energies.  "Wasn't I supposed to exercise or something?  Nah, I'm good-looking enough."  Either that, or I've long ago given up.  Leave the washboard abs to those young bucks in the Olympics.  Sleek, swimmer's build looks ridiculous in a Tommy Bahama shirt anyway.

But I digress.  Every four years (two, if you count the Winter Olympics, kind of the "New York Mets" of Olympic games), countries around the world present their greatest champions to compete for gold and best-represent said homelands.  Which got me to pondering:  if each country could just put one wine forward to challenge the rest of the world's wares, which bottles would complete the field?  No "one red, one white, one rosé" or any diplomatic crap like that.  One shot for each country to flog its best wine.

We're not talking about the contrived, everyone-gets-a-prize medals from hundreds of wine "competitions" around the country.  These accolades would result in the kind of national pride one wants to shove down other countries' throats.  One wine in the world gets the gold.  One gets the silver.  One, the bronze.  The rest of the countries can suck it.


Sorry, Jamaica.  We're talking wine, not bobsledding.  You're hosed.  And with all due respect to the host nation(s) of Great Britain, I'm not allowing Bacchus into this competition.  Just the best of the best gets invited.  You'll get consideration when I do the "fish n' chips Olympics" (pending).

Let the parade of nations begin (and the parade of controversy):
  • Argentina - With all due respect to the monolithic Mendoza Malbec, Torrontés Riojano from Salta is uniquely Argentina's own.  Somewhat creepily, I also feel it would look good playing beach volleyball.
  • Austria - While I'm cheering for underdogs Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch (the red-skinned stepchildren, if you will), Grüner Veltliner from Wachau/Kremstal/Kamptal muscles its way through the qualifying.
  • Australia - Shiraz is king here.  An easy pick?  McLaren Vale?  Barossa?  I'm going to throw a boomerang (I wanted to say "throw a curveball", but at least respect my regional metaphor) and go with Eden Valley Riesling.  Have had some stunners from there.
  • Chile - I love some of the stuff coming out of Casablanca Valley, but I have to concede to Chile's adopted only son, Carménère.  From the Maipo Valley.  But not the crappy stuff.  The good stuff that's hard to find.
  • France - Tough call.  Lots of champion athletes of Gallic stock.  I've had Chassagne-Montrachet and Meursault that have almost made me cry (almost... I'm too tuff to cry).  Sauternes can be a thing of beauty.  The Loire and Rhône are breeding grounds of excellence.  Bordeaux and Burgundy are as decorated as Mark Spitz.  But Champagne- especially great, grower Champagne, is unlike anything else on Earth.
  • Germany - I like saying "Bernkastler Badstube".  And if there's Eiswein from there, I'm slapping it in a speedo.
  • Greece - The birthplace of the Olympics has been making wine for a long time.  Much of it bad, but the training program has been on the rise lately.  Traditionalists would say Retsina, but we can use that to clean the locker room afterwards.  Rather, I want to nominate minerally, almost-salty Assyrtiko from Santorini.
  • Hungary - Tokaji Essencia.  Like a ZJ, if you have to ask, you can't afford it.
  • Italy - I've narrowed it down to Barolo, Amarone della Valpolicella, an Brunello di Montalcino.  Reluctantly, going with the latter... Italy's most rustic and classic grape expressed in its most ethereal form.
  • New Zealand - Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but there are some solid Pinot Noirs, too.  I'm not sure the Kiwis have enough firepower to compete on the international super-stage (being known for phenomenal value wines), but they'll always have the toothbrush fence.
  • Portugal - You may pay more for some amazing vintage Port, but 40-year Tawny will always perform.
  • Spain - It's not the most expensive, nor the most age-worthy out of a sea of wine in Spain, but I've heard whispers about the Albariños of Rias Baixas.  You know, the ones they don't send over here.  I want those.
  • United States - ARGHHH.  It's easy picking the other countries.  I don't really care about them. Call me a xenophobe or an isolationist.  But what am I sending to London to represent my home nation?  Many call Zinfandel America's own.  But it's really a genetic equivalent of Croatia's red grape, Crljenak Kaštelanski.  About as American as the U.S. team's opening ceremony uniforms.  Norton is certainly a purely American grape, but the finest of Augusta, Missouri on the international stage isn't scratching me where I itch.  I think I'm going to pull a 1980 and boycott the U.S. team.  Or, let's pump wine up with some anabolics and submit Bourbon.
Honorable Mention (countries who could put up an accolade-worthy wine):  Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Israel, Macedonia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Uruguay.

Disagree?  Make you arguments.  I will be too lazy to respond.  Sitting on the couch takes a lot out of me.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Out of the Ashes?



I don't want to say that I was ready to shut it down.  I like to run things into the ground (be that automobiles, running shoes, revealing cut-off jean shorts, etc.).  But I always told myself I'd stop posting once it became "work".

Well, it did for a while.  Having left my previous industry, where thinking about wine was an "escape", and jumping wildly into an industry where thinking about wine is part of the job description, my evenings no longer required a need to forget the matters of the day and engross myself with the distraction and rejuvenation of hobby.  I actually enjoyed what I was doing during the day.

So, what was the purpose of the blog at this point?  I think I originally (at least in part) put it together to make more connections in the wine business.  Mission accomplished... lots of new contacts, and no shortage of new, wonderful friends.  I wanted to learn more about wine.  Certainly a never-ending endeavor, but that- too- is a goal that has been met.

It's hard to remember, but I think I was excited at the prospect of getting free wine.  All greatly appreciated, but this is no place for another collection of wine reviews.  Too many other options there, most of them not something I want to read (though I'm happy folks are turned on by wine and want to write about it.  Go nuts and to hell with the naysayers!).  Plus, the expectation of wine reviews from the providers of said samples is more than I can bear.  I don't blame them, but that model turns this blog from my own little piece of cyberspace into an endorsement gang bang that I don't control 100% (or, at least that's the way I feel about it).

So, knowing that I wasn't fishing for samples, had other avenues to learn about wine, no longer needed an escape from the grind, and (long ago) gave up on the idea of generating a stream of advertising revenue (also, a way to lose control of my site), the only reason to continue the blog going was because I like to write.  And, as personal as blogs can be, and as much as we say that we're not seeking attention, I love and dearly appreciate being able to connect with the few people who like what goes on here.  Self-absorbed or not, making someone laugh, teaching someone something he didn't previously know (in, hopefully, an approachable way)... well, that all makes me feel good.  I'm not expecting accolade, or attention from popular media, blog awards, comments, reposts, or any of that.  I know who's out there who digs my stuff, and keeping them entertained; adding a perhaps a bit of humor to their days, is all I could ever hope for.

What I'm getting at is:  I don't know how often I'll post.  I'd rather post less than force some garbage.  But, the blog's not going anywhere.  The phoenix has risen from the ashes, and may return to ashes, only to rise again at another point in time.

Thank you for reading, through the sparse times and the flush.  More coming, whenever that elusive muse hits me.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Great White Sharks love to eat people, and they're baiting us in with wine (and I have the proof!)


ATTENTION:  If you drink wine, this post may save your life.

Are elephant seals being mistaken for Robert Parker?  Or, the other way around?
Forget the French Paradox.  All the medical study suggesting that a little bit of wine may be beneficial to your health.  All that crap is a bunch of dinky doo, propagated to sell health magazines and bottles of wine.  Wine- in fact- is the deadliest of all beverages.  It will most likely kill you before your time.  Drinking wine is- without a shadow of a doubt- extremely hazardous to any human being's health.

There have been rumors that this blog was shut down.  Things have gone very stale.  Maybe I got sick of being lost in the shuffle of thousands of other wine blogs.  Perhaps- after nearly five years of pecking away at the keyboard- I'd lost the desire to write.  Or, simply being in the business of wine sapped all my passion for what has now become a widget on a balance sheet.

Bollocks!  For the past several months, I've spent every waking hour painstakingly tracking a correlation between wine tourism and great white shark attacks.  After noticing a swell in stories like this over the past year, my convictions solidified.  Wine consumption is on the rise domestically.  As are  white shark sightings, on both coasts.  My mind began swimming like a foolish California sea lion, as I sifted through data at the National Shark Attack & Wine Tourism Command Center I set up in my garage:


A comprehensive analysis from our collection of massive, 1980's-style super-computers offered the following, indisputable conclusions:

1)  Sharks love to eat people (we already knew this, but confirmation from an expensive bank of 1980's-style super-computers bolstered validity)

2)  People love to drink wine, as evidenced by projected meteoric rise in consumption.

3)  Great white sharks frequent cooler waters off the coasts of California, Oregon, Australia, South Africa, Chile, and New Zealand.

4)  Some of the world's greatest wine growing regions exist near the coasts in California, Oregon, Australia, South Africa, Chile, and New Zealand.

After digesting the data, I took a large, nervous swig from my glass of cool ocean current-influenced Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir.  I detected aromas of cherry cola, red fruits, earth, water, bloodlust, pelagic skin, death...

My hand began to tremble.  My glass dropped to the floor, shattering as if it were my foolish dreams of chugging a bottle of Margaret River Cab while surfing off the coast of Perth.  Now... I knew.

GREAT WHITE SHARKS ARE BAITING US IN... WITH WINE.

The town of Stellenbosch, epicenter of South Africa's greatest wine growing region, lies a mere 20 miles from False Bay's Seal Island.  Some of California's finest product is grown in Sonoma County, Monterey County, San Luis Obispo County, and Santa Barbara County.  All counties hug the Pacific coast... a coast teeming with hungry, hungry sharks.  Australia sees the most fatal attacks in the world.  Perth, Melbourne, and Adelaide are the closest major cities to the sites of these attacks.  Not at all coincidentally, so are heralded regions like Margaret River, Yarra Valley, Barossa, McLaren Vale, and Eden Valley.

And, of course, Jaws was filmed in Martha's Vineyard, MA.  Conveniently, nearby Long Island's wine industry is on the rise.

It's such a simple, sinister plan the sharks have laid out.  Go to wine country, become inebriated in its beauty.  Then, tuck into a few bottles.  "Wow, the nearby ocean seems so inviting.  Let's take a bottle of this maritime-influenced Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc to the beach and take a dip..."

Scientists claim a seal can elude the attack of a fearsome Great White.  But a seal can't drink a magnum of 16% ABV "cool climate" Bien Nacido Pinot Noir.  Drunken on both hubris and wine, we feel invincible as we sink below the depths, equipped with the awkward, minimal swimming abilities of land creatures.  It's all too easy.  Bellies swelling with fermented goodness, heads swimming with cloudy visions of elusive 2 oz. tasting pours, livers bloated like foie gras...  It's not because we look like seals.  It's because seals look like us that the sharks attack without remorse.

So, dear reader, only because I care about you, I'm offering this advice if you value your life:

1)  Don't drink wine.
2)  Stay the hell out of the water.
3)  Tell your local winery to move inland.  The hot climate will wreak havoc on the wine, but what good is wine if everyone you hope to buy it is dead?

Once the sharks no longer have a steady supply of booze-saturated humans to feast upon, they will go into alcohol withdrawal and resort to cigarettes.  Yet, with the water soaking the tobacco and making the use of lighters and matches futile, the pangs of said withdrawal will be too much for them.  Plus, they won't be able to get on land to buy cigarettes.  And, their flippers can't flick lighters.  And cigarettes are like $8 a pack in California.  And all the California oceans are probably designated "smoke free" anyway.  The sharks will flee.

It has to work.  And it you don't believe me, see if you can find any videos on Youtube of shark attacks that occurred during prohibition.

I didn't find any.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Trying Something New



Familiar is comfortable and safe.

So are turtlenecks.  And Volvo station wagons (are station wagons even around anymore?).  I imagine a pair of British Knights offers both a cushioned sole and adequate ankle support when one wants to comfortably- and safely- dance the Roger Rabbit to the latest hip-hop stylings of Color Me Badd.

But guess what?  After dressing warmly in my ribbed turtleneck & pumped up kicks by BK, then taking to the streets in my 245 DL, I figured out that the conservative route elicits little adventure, and even less sex appeal.  No hot rod will challenge a Volvo off the line at a stop light.  Cops don't glare with apprehension- and a bit of admiration.  I don't need to run faster than anyone's bullets in my British Knights... nobody wants them.  And no sexy American foxes are coming after me when a turtleneck shrouds my bulging biceps and even more impressive liger's mane of chest hair.

Let's get as real as the kids say they are keeping it these days:  California Chardonnay is the turtleneck of wines.  Folks who only drink Napa Cabernet also happen to wear British Knights (look at their feet next time!  Seek out that huge "BK" on the side of the shoe, staring you down like a Cali Cab drinker's scarlet letter).

But I understand it's tough to deviate, especially to those who are just starting to drink wine.  Many of us started our adventure into adult beverages with 6 and 12 packs of beer.  For the price of a halfway decent bottle of wine, we were getting 12 drinks.  And 12 is more than 1... 1 bottle of wine, that is.  It was always hard to justify- unless trying to look cool and sophisticated in front of a lady for whom I had a fancy- buying only a couple drinks when I could get several.  Alas, I suppose alcohol back then was a means to an end, not something to be considered a compliment to the meal.

So, when the time came to pony up, it was important to go with what we knew.  What had tasted good before.  Its like being in a foreign country and going to McDonald's.  I think the instinct is to avoid risk and go with consistency.  We're all guilty of it.  In business travel, I've eaten a hell of a lot more Taco Bell in my days than popping into the local place.

With wine, the choices are endless.  Dizzying, even.  And so many don't know what they may be missing.  I've tasted more people on torrontés and bonarda (among others) in the past 5 months who had never even heard of the grapes.  They've walked past the bottles a million times, but didn't want to risk a bad experience.  After tasting, at least 8 out of 10 expressed excitement and favor towards these "new" wines.

Next time you go out to buy, try something new.  If you're shopping at a good store with knowledgeable wine folks, they won't steer you wrong, and they probably won't put a bunch of junk on the shelves anyway.  I rarely buy the same wine twice.  There's just so much out there.  It's a great way to learn about the hundreds of grapes and regions that turn out fabulous juice.

Be sure to still wear those British Knights, though.  Most shops require shoes.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Warranted Outrage



Recently, CNBC ran a special about Costco (The Costco Craze:  Inside the Warehouse Giant), the now-ubiquitous chain that is virtually cornering the big-box retail world.

As part of the special, Costco's wine buyer, Annette Alvarez-Peters was interviewed.  During the course of the segment, the world's most powerful buyer was quoted as saying that wine is really no different than toilet paper, spurring outrage from the wine-loving blogosphere.  She suggested that- in such a position- viewing all products as commodities is how an operation like Costco succeeds.

Such vitriol is completely warranted.  We're talking about a product that comes in so many different styles.  A product that elicits an emotional response; something that comforts us, something we share with our friends when they come to visit.  Something that is infinitely personal.  And Costco's head buyer has marginalized it.  A thing that many of us cannot live without has been relegated to commodity status.  THIS IS BLASPHEMY, MS. ALVAREZ-PETERS.

Honestly, to say that toilet paper is all one-in-the-same pisses me off to no end.  Yet the Costco buyer has the gall to compare it to a homogenized beverage like wine.  Toilet paper is as varied as the individuals who feel its plushness daily.  It helps frame our emotions.  Toilet paper comforts us in our time of greatest need.

There's the cheap single-ply stuff.  Takes me back to the college days.  Boy, were those good times. When I feel its coarse, sandpaper-like touch- my fingers ripping through its gossamer structure, I recall a simpler time:  when having plenty of Old Milwaukee in the fridge trumped my need to avoid a chapped butt.


But we're just scratching the surface (pun intended).  Double-ply, even triple-ply fills the shelves, serving high-rollers with powerful flushing mechanisms.  Do I want my toilet paper quilted?  Maybe with ripples?  I can get it.  From "Over the Hill" to "Shit Happens", the customized prints of any roll are limited only by one's ability to get to the mall and pop into Spencer's Gifts.

When the toilet paper runs out?  When it has fallen off the roll into mystery "water" in a public bathroom?  Even when it's draped over-the-roll when we prefer it under-the-roll... all these dire situations affect our emotions.  The difference between a tremendous day and utter hell is often dictated by the morning pit stop, and the subsequent T.P. situation.

Point is:  there are millions of toilet paper enthusiasts out there, many of them Costco shoppers (myself included).  If this thoughtless monolith wants to continue to retain our business, I suggest Ms. Alvarez-Peters, et al, choose their words more carefully next time they decide to compare a multi-faceted plethora of personal choice to something as simple and interchangeable as wine.

Shame!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Madness



I have about 10 unfinished posts sitting in limbo: uninspired, unfocused, drunken louts stumbling into the night's air, seeking the next bar after all the bars have closed.  These posts are half-complete; blog versions of Return of the Jedi Death Stars.  Where the metaphor falls apart (as they so often do) is in the fact that these posts- unlike incomplete Death Stars- are not able to destroy planets.  Planet destructing ability is the Waterloo to so many potentially great metaphors...

So, left with an inability to put cohesive thoughts together, well, for the past 3 months, I decided to default to the only reasonable alternative:  turn on Iggy & the Stooges' Funhouse (at a reasonable volume... there are kids in the house, for pete's sake), drink not one, but two La Croix flavored sparkling waters, and just start writing.  Whatever comes to mind.  Death Stars?  Really?  I dunno, but it came to mind.  Just put something down on paper so that I can jar something meaningful loose.

And who the hell is Pete?

Call it stream-of-consciousness, I suppose.  Every writer (term used extraordinarily loosely) gets his William Faulkner moment.  And not that I'm trying to compare myself to Faulkner.  How could I?  I never understood a damn thing he ever wrote.

And then, there is wine.  That's why we're all here.  And by "we", I mean me and a bunch of Russians who accidentally ended up on this site through a search engine because I'm pretty sure I've reference Ivan Drago many times.  Maybe something like Argentine Malbec being the Ivan Drago to Rocky's Cahors.  At the time, it probably made sense.  To my Russian friends:  Ivan Drago was a fictional character, but I still toast you.  Nostrovia, comrades!  And if that toast is too Anglicized, then На здоровье!

photo credit: http://maki-ubermach.deviantart.com/art/Nostrovia-152503208
While we're toasting, let's talk about wine.  First thoughts about wine that come to my head:
...

That didn't work.  This stream of consciousness thing is tough when your mind is a complete blank.

Anyway, go drink some wine.  It's good.  Made from grapes.  Vitis vinifera, which translates to "wine grapes".  I'd ask a Latin-speaker to confirm that, but they're all dead.  At least the real ones.  Not the posers who teach it in high school and tell buyers to beware.

The end.

Or, perhaps the beginning.  Of what?  I have no friggin' idea.  Bear with me here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Grill Instinct


I've beckoned Spring's call.

Not to exercise.  Or to do yard work.

Spring awakens the animal kingdom's instinct to procreate.  Me?  I've been married 5 years, so that part of my endocrine system is long dead.

But I have another undeniable need:  to grill.  To put food atop fire and make it tasty.  Do you?



Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Best Wine for the Moment


I'm a snob.  Particularly when it comes to sparkling wine.

Not much of a secret, really.  I write ranting posts like this one.  I've yelled at family members.  Things like, "it's not Champagne, dammit!" have burst from my lips... words before thoughts, it seems.  Never do I intend to come off like a pretentious jerk-ass.  It's sort of a bubbly version of Tourette's.

Furthermore, I find myself- inadvertently- turning my nose at most big California producers.  For no good reason.  I guess I just want to put my dollars towards something obscure, with little financial backing or marketing.  Maybe I'm just cheering for the underdog.  The small market team.

To summarize, when it comes to bubbly, I have no verbal filter, and an animosity towards capitalism.  Guess that makes me the sparkling wine equivalent of Steve Heimoff talking politics on Facebook.

So, why did I find myself purchasing, opening, and drinking this bottle on Saturday?


Domaine Chandon is a Napa Valley-based (Yountville) sparkling wine producer owned by Champagne giant Moët & Chandon.  They produce nice, serviceable sparkling wines that retail around $15-20.  That is to say, wines that- due to my hubris- I tend to avoid like half-priced sushi.

But sometimes, the bottles we would normally never choose are the absolutely perfect selections for the occasion. My wife and I drank this Saturday morning in some mimosas (sans the orange juice) to kick off our five year anniversary.  Chandon was one of the wineries we visited on our honeymoon in Napa.  The pink-tinged bubbly, a Blanc de Noirs (meaning "white from blacks", indicating it's a wine made entirely from "black" grapes:  Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier), was rich, satisfying, and a spectacular way to remind us of the joy of the simpler times.  Back then, we didn't carry the obligations we carry now, and I certainly didn't give nearly as much a damn about what we were drinking.  

At that particular moment in time, there was no wine more appropriate than a Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs.  It will always share an emotional connection with me.  Basking in the afterglow on a pleasant April evening in the Napa Valley, I sipped with my new best friend for life... completely oblivious to how much of a snob I would become.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Here's to Crime"


It's not something I'm uttering because I might've eaten an olive from the olive bar at the grocery store today.  Nor, is the title indicative of the fact that I drove 37 in a 35 yesterday, and got away with it, to the chagrin of hapless coppers.

When I say, "here's to crime", I say it as a toast.  A toast to this man:


That's my grandpa, Louis F. Herrig, who finally decided that he'd done all he could do in this life, after a tidy little run of 103 years.  He passed last Thursday, leaving a legacy untouched by any family member I've ever known, along with the template for long life:

- The daily Vodka Martini (Gramps was never much of a wine guy, save the splash of dry vermouth in his martini)
- Red meat, pan fried in butter
- An occasional cigar
- Hard Work
- Faith, and Family
- Humor, in every situation

All of it, as he prescribed, in moderation.  Seems to have served him well.  I was also taught by Grandpa- along with the moderation thing- not to let anything cause stress in my life.  Admittedly, I can occasionally stray from the principles of Moderation.  However, I'm not going to allow my deviations to stress me out.  Perhaps Grandpa'd be proud of my loophole.

While it's easy to say that sadness is not protocol for those mourning someone who had lived so fully, the fact of the matter is we were given that much longer to get to know him.  Hence, the loss is so greatly significant.  His loved ones had become accustomed to Grandpa always being around; his gruff and self-effacing exterior merely shrouding tenderness and a fierce love for his family.

However, my title for this post does not insinuate that his leaving us was a crime.  Grandpa stole not a single one of those 103 years.  He lived each and every one with purpose:  causing us to laugh ourselves dizzy, imparting unparalleled wisdom, making new friends, and outliving his enemies (if any).

Rather, "here's to crime" is a toast Grandpa used to pronounce to us when glasses were raised.  Quite simply, during Prohibition, it was the jovial and defiant salute given by patrons of the speakeasys.

Something about that always made me smile.  And though Louie has left us for the great Unknown, the stories and the memories will always remain.  They- themselves- will be shared, passed on, toasted, and embellished upon...

...in moderation, of course.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In the Weeds


There are ideas and things that need to be said rattling (or sloshing) around in my cranium.

Unfortunately, I've been covered up trying to preach the goodness of the grape to your neighborhood drinking establishments.

I recorded a live session at a sales call today.  It's in black and white because we're behind places like Seattle and San Francisco down here in the South, and we've yet to discover Technicolor and such:


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Evangelist


Sometimes, in our minds, we build caricatures of who we wish to be (or, somehow deep down, believe we already are):
Okay, perhaps it's a bad fantasy representation of myself.  I don't see evidence of sweet abs, glistening pecs, or a mane of hair that would make late 80's Richard Marx blush.

And, with all due respect to Chateau "La Feet", I'd have to opt for a Gallagher stage prop-sized bottle of Grower Champagne.  I don't always drink wine out of giant bottles, but when I do, I prefer Grower Champagne.

So, despite the physical deficiencies, the follicular inadequacies, and the semantics over bottle-of-choice, this is my mind's representation of myself.  I am, for better or for worse, a Wine Evangelist.

I drew this today (taking some liberties with a famous political cartoon of William Jennings Bryan) as the profile pic for a new Facebook page to keep track of tasting events I'm hosting around Atlanta.  While these events are tied to me working with accounts to help sell the wines I sell, I named the whole endeavor, "The Great Awakening of Joe's Wine Revival and Goodtimes Emporium of Grapes Tour 2012."  To me, these tastings are so much more than selling wine.

Merriam-Webster defines "evangelism" as "militant or crusading zeal."  No doubt, to many, my love of wine and my prodding for others to try new things can be- at times- (over)zealous.  I've had to accept the fact that- even in an endless sea of wine options out there- some have no desire to stray from the safe and predictable tide pool filled with Kendall-Jackson.  I've come to grips with the fact that many people simply DO NOT CARE about wine, and they never will.  Hey, I will never understand the deal with running marathons.  I'm sure that drives some sinewy person with a "26.2" sticker on the back of her Jeep nuts.  Sorry.  I like running just fine, but 2 miles is my comfortable, oak-chipped Chardonnay.

Why deal with the slings and arrows, then?  Because of the twenty percent.  The folks out there who understand that there is a world of flavors, aromas, food science, culture, geography, geology, history, politics, and pleasure out there within the dusty bottles of the world; enough knowledge and exploration to span hundreds of lifetimes.  To the wild-eyed evangelist, wine can't be limited to cute labels and return-on-investment and absurd tasting notes...

...it is a journey to find the next great bottle.  To, once again, be... awakened.  And to those who share the same quest:  you, too, are evangelists. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An Awkward Gentleman's Guide to February 14th



Like a sacrificial human heart from a Temple of Doom victim's body cavity, I, too, am torn.

With February 14th- Valentine's Day- upon us, what measure of tight science could I serve up to my bros on the blog?  And why did I just say "bros"?

Admittedly, I have some chops in the wine-knowledge department.  I can cook my way around the kitchen, I suppose.  And, I make a mean chocolate monkey.  If I really, REALLY, applied myself, I imagine a list of smooth things to say, cool wines to order, foods that make women happy, and slick moves at the restaurant could materialize that would help a single cat or kitty woo the filly or beefcake he's/she's after.

But rather than searching for needles of suavity in a haystack of ineptitude with the opposite sex, why don't we focus on the haystack.  Because I've pulled a hell of a lot more disaster-y than mastery in the arena of love.  So, grab your pitchfork and listen up if you don't want to definitely not get lucky today:

Gifts to Avoid:

- Carob
- Lane Bryant gift card
- Rogaine for Her
- 5 lbs. of Veal

Commenting on her appearance:

- "You're hotter than any of the moms on Toddlers & Tiaras."
- "Someone's looking sensible tonight!"
- "Meow!  Move over, Greta Van Susteren."


At Dinner:

- "Say you're my daughter... the kid's meal is free."
- "If we eat enough of the bottomless salad bowl and breadsticks, we can split a meal."
- "The lady will have the Grand Slam Breakfast, please."
- "Do you want the chicken, or the beef Mexi-melt?"

In the Boudoir:

- "Errrrr... Mexi-melts."
- "Let's make eight babies!"
- "Are you familiar with micro-phallus?"
- "I have night terrors, but not always."
- "'No' really means 'yes', right?"
- Screaming "IT'S A BOY!"