Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Sports for the Under-Coordinated

January 28, 2014
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In a recent ransack of the parents’ attic (I was looking for old Battle Beasts to sell play with), I came across my war-chest of athletic accolades and trophies from childhood.  Locked away for years, these triumphant physical endeavors unfolded like a long-awaited Hall of Fame speech:

  • My “2nd Place:  Roswell Rec Dribble & Shoot Contest” trophy, the proverbial Lombardi Trophy of the lot.
  • An entire shoebox of obscurely-colored Mountain Creek Swim Team (go Dolphins!) ribbons.  Purple meant 5th place.  There were lots of those.  And- ah- glorious Green.  4th place.  Not as many, but they were hard-earned, still stinking of sweat and chlorine.  I didn’t see any Blue (1st place) or Red (2nd place) ribbons.  Primary colors are for idiots anyway.
  • There were several Tritt Elementary (go Tigers!) Field Day “Participation” ribbons.  Some may say that everyone gets those ribbons.  But that one kid with head lice didn’t participate, per the school nurse’s decree.  No ribbon for that poor little bastard.  But, seriously, he was lousy with parasites.
  • The Presidential Fitness “Merit” Award, signed by the Governator himself.  It was the certificate given to kids who were a step-down from the star athletes.  I can still imagine Arnie yelling at me to this day… “IF ONLY YOU COULD HAVE DONE ONE PULL-UP, YOU WOULD HAVE GOTTEN THE ‘ACHIEVEMENT’ AWARD, YOU FLABBY, GIRLIE-ARMED SISSY!  HAVE ANOTHER STREUDEL, OR WHATEVER IT IS YOU FAT AMERICAN KINDER EAT!  KROM LAUGHS AT YOUR FOUR WINDS!”  
Okay, so I basically sucked at athletics.  Can’t help it.  While others were out playing soccer, I was reading cookbooks.  And the one time I made ten free-throws in a row in the driveway?  It took 8 hours, and I only did it because my mom promised I could get whatever junky sugar cereal at the grocery store if I succeeded.  Guess she just really wanted me out of the kitchen, reading all her cookbooks.
And what kind of neighborhood kids were playing soccer anyway?  This ain’t Paraguay.
The point is, like any red-blooded kid, I had a desire to compete, but had to find alternatives that didn’t require athletic prowess.  To this day, you probably don’t want me on your church basketball team, but if your church organizes a horseshoes league, beer pong tournament, or rib cook-off, I’m first pick.  And I want to join your devil-may-care church community.
I think my affinity- and success- with leisure sport is part of the reason why I’ve become so enamored with blind tasting wines lately.  On the surface, blind tasting probably appears to many as a stupid parlor trick with very little practical application.  And, if you are using it primarily to pick up chicks, it really is.  Unless it works.  Which it doesn’t.  Trust me.
Blind evaluation of wine is one of the three components of the Court of Master Sommeliers examination structure, and perhaps the most harrowing to the general public; as it was portrayed and popularized in the recent cult-documentary, SOMM.  Observing a bunch of guys taking six glasses of unmarked wine and- with nothing other than their superior senses- pegging them down to the variety, region, and freaking vintage can seem almost super-human.
However, as impressive a feat as it may seem (and not to discount… it IS impressive), these top sommeliers were not necessarily born with magical noses or freakish taste buds.  Sure, scientific research has discovered that certain individuals may have greater sensitivity of taste, but the methodology (and there most certainly is a method) is one that is LEARNED.  Acquired with a great deal of practice?  Sure.  But it can be learned, if you are psycho enough to pursue it.  And, by “psycho”, I really just mean willing to taste a lot of wine.  And study a bit.  That’s not so bad.
Take me.  It’s my blog, so I’m gonna bloviate about myself.  Deal with it.  Five years ago, I couldn’t tell you if I had Merlot or Pinot Noir in my glass.  Now, not only can I tell you it’s Merlot, but can probably tell you generally where it’s from, and roughly how old it is.  I’m not saying this to boast, but mentioning it to encourage those who have zealous interest in wine.  I don’t have a great nose (in fact, I can barely breathe through it), nor a hyper-sensitive tongue.  But I have invested time (and perhaps a bit too much money) in learning about the classic wines of the world, and that studying has done wonders for discerning what’s in my glass.  How does thin skin affect the color of a wine vs. thick skin?  What does age do to a wine’s color, aroma, and taste?  Where do they predominantly use French Oak, and what are its flavors?  What about American Oak?  How does climate affect levels of acid, sugar, and alcohol?
So, circling back to the practicality of blind tasting, we come to find that “getting the wine right” is only a minor component in a much grander scheme.  Practicing blind tasting requires that one learn about grapes, regions, aging requirements, climates, soils.  It dictates we come to better understand the esoteric concept of flavor.  How sweet, sour, and bitter come into- or fall out of- balance on the palate.  For a fat kid reading cookbooks as a kid, this is straight Jedi stuff.  And all this homework not only helps with tasting, it improves one’s general understanding of wine.  If you truly are a student of the fermented grape, this is a good thing.
And, admittedly, being able to work through the components of a wine using all the knowledge and practice one’s amassedto ultimately “get the wine right”, well… that’s rewarding.  And a bit sporting.  Hell, some of us may have never had the moves.  But we all have competitive spirit.
So, how does one navigate through a wine?  Come back next year, and I’ll write about it.

Posted in blind tasting, wine

Attack of the 50-Foot Chianti Bottle

August 28, 2013
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So, I’m cruising the streets of Miami- or Biloxi, or maybe Kitty Hawk- you know, somewhere near a beach.  Regardless of location, the scene is hot.  My boys are in the car with me… something badass like a Pontiac Fiero, and I’m behind the wheel.  The mood is raucous; festive.  I can only imagine Kenny Loggins’ “Playing With the Boys” is blaring on the radio.  Somewhere, Pitbull has his hand in the air on a stage, saying something about doing something that involves partying.  Hell, Pitbull may be in the car with us.  This deal is just that good.

I’m loaded.  Like, “I definitely shouldn’t be driving right now, but somebody has to handle keeping this mobile fiesta intact.”  I think of myself as a modern-day Styles, and the Wolf is catching waves up on the roof.  No matter how bad the creeping reality of me-behind-the-wheel seems, I’m entrusted with a greater duty to my bros.  In this scenario, I’m forced to use the term “bros”.

As we approach a T-intersection in the road, I see the beach in front of me.  I turn left, but due to lack of motor skills (in all senses of the term), I fumble into the oncoming lane.  It’s as if I’ve suddenly lost all ability, experience, and knowledge of how to drive.  As I collect myself and complete the errant turn, shock and terror fill my every fiber of being.  Blocking my passage are dozens of squad cars, bright lights flashing in the black night.

The crushing weight of reality floods every sense, as I slam on the brakes, jump out of the driver’s side, and lay on the ground with my hands behind my head.  In my current condition, there is no reasonable defense.  As I feel the cold steel of handcuffs clasp around my wrists- muffled echos of conversation and Miranda Rights distantly echoing at the edges of my silent introspection- I keep thinking to myself, “this has got to be a dream, right?  No.  No, this is definitely not a dream.  This is absolutely real.  I’ve really, really messed up.”


Suddenly, I find myself in a particularly notorious customer’s office.  There is nary a distant memory of DUI, Miami nights, or Pitbull.

The mood is tense, but I am confident.  We are in the midst of serious negotiation.  “I really need to get some shelf space for [product x] and [product y].  Proper exposure next to comparable competitive products is crucial for brand awareness and customer conversion.”

My customer- a shrewd and seasoned liquor store owner- pauses.  I’m expecting another lecture about brand building.  He leans forward and speaks.

“Hell, of course we’ll make space for you.  In fact, let’s take a walk down to the floor and see where we’ll put you.”

As we exit the upstairs office and head down to the retail space, I sense the ominous presence of many henchmen-types in our wake.  This is a big-time shop owner, so I guess he needs his protection.  Hand on my shoulder in a fatherly manner, he begins in on me.  “You know, we could use a smart young lad like you to work the floor… you know, sell wine and such.  All my sales associates are the best in the business.  They are the ultimate professionals… all eunuchs are.”

“Eunuchs??”  It’s the only response my flabbergasted lips can muster.  We are now standing on the retail floor, which seems to be an odd combination of a liquor store and an old Circuit City.  Very uneasy feelings rise within me, as I see sales associates scurrying about to assist the crowds of customers.  They all have laser-focus on their work.  They all seem like robots.

I can imagine they all have their balls in jars somewhere.

“Of course,” the store owner replies, as if I shouldn’t be surprised.  “Eunuchs are never distracted by sinful and deviant thoughts.  They are always on-task,” he exclaims with pride.

“So, are you ready to join our team?”

Sensing I’m being made an offer I cannot refuse without consequence, I politely ask if we can look at the shelves first.  Somehow, I manage to duck away while they entourage proceeds to the shelf space, and find my family (why is my family on a sales call with me?).  I see the shop owner looking around as I duck behind a stack of Peach Chocolate Moscato.  He whispers to one of his minions.  Suddenly, I’m grabbed by the crotch by one gloved hand, razor-sharp blade in the other…

I twist away in uncharacteristically-athletic fashion, corral my family, and we run out the door.  We keep running.

Suddenly, my wife, daughter, and I are eating exotic food in a shack, somewhere far from home.  I hear an amalgam of several foreign languages chattering away at other tables, mixed with the sounds of plates clanking and rum drinks being poured.  We’ve gone on the lam, and- for now- we are safe and distant from the castrating liquor store owner.  But, in the back of my mind, I know he knows where my family and I are, and we needn’t get too comfortable…


This is the best documentation of two of the most vivid dreams I have had in a while.  I experienced both of them last night.  Needless to say, I was unusually relieved and comforted by the buzzing of an alarm clock at six in the morning.

I’m thinking the daily stresses of life in wine and spirits distribution are starting to manifest themselves a little too close for comfort.  But then again, perhaps I’ll be drinking Hermitage with Ronnie James Dio in tonight’s dream sequence.

Or maybe I just watched too much “Game of Thrones”.  They’re pretty liberal with the eunuch references.

Posted in stories, work

Sales 101

January 29, 2013
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I used this image in place of the descriptors on a presentation sheet for a very important tasting tomorrow (well, at this point, today):

I’m pretty confident it will pay dividends.  While I don’t necessarily always like to “dumb down” wines that deserve some respect, I really think the people tasting know what they’re doing, and there’s no benefit to saying that the wine has, “whispers of ripe-to-underripe Israeli persimmon, with masculine undertones of femininity carrying through the tart lychee-blossomed finish.”
Of course, that’s exactly what I smelled and tasted on the wine, and then visions of this creature materialized.  So, it’s pretty much a slam dunk.
That’s how you do it.  That’s how you sell wine.

Posted in Uncategorized

Stuff I Missed…

January 7, 2013
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‘Twasn’t the most verbose year in Suburban Wino history.  Those who know what I’ve been up to the past year understand why I wasn’t left with gobs of time to sit in front of the computer and painstakingly craft (mostly) coherent posts.  However, that doesn’t mean that this year was devoid of exciting and interesting happenings in the world of wine.  More accurately, in MY world of wine.  Sure, it’s less relevant to the general wine-drinking public, but I’ve got an ego that needs to be stroked, so we’re gonna talk about me.  Okay, we’re not gonna talk about me, per se, but about stuff that I experienced in 2012.  Not sure what else to write about.  I don’t care about what James Suckling or Emilio Estevez experienced, and you shouldn’t either.  Maybe there’s something relevant here after all:

The Wine Business is…

…not at all less glamorous than I expected.  I’m not surprised it’s tough, because I know the climate and have known the people in it for a while.  Now, a grizzled veteran at one year’s experience, I have to say that it is (if I may paraphrase Denny Green) “what I thought it was”:  work.  Not a lot of sitting around, drinking wine, visiting exciting locales around the world.  More accurately, the wine business is- at least initially- hard, HARD work for very little pay, involving long hours, intense competition, aggression, a parade of disinterested and jaded buyers, and even further disinterested consumers who buy on scores, cute labels, and low prices (the latter, I suspect, perpetuated by the laziness of retailers, distributors, and the consumers themselves).  Brushing with a broad stroke here, of course, but wine is held in a much lower regard by so many than one gets swept into believing when dug into the blogging world.  In fact, I’ve had two rather sobering realizations during my short time in the trenches:

  1. 90% of the wine-consuming public DOES NOT GIVE A DAMN about wine as anything more than a means to get drunk.
  2. Fear of the unknown and unfamiliar is extraordinarily prevalent in the consumer world of wine-buying, and the comfort of a consistent experience drives buying behavior heavily.
When we are so passionate about something, we tend to not understand why others don’t share that passion.  We so badly want others to have the epiphany we once did; that “aha” moment when we took a sip of the wine that changed our view of the world forever.  But many (most) will never experience that, because they don’t have enough desire to allow the experience to occur.  Rather than lament those who will never have interest, I’ve enjoyed the zeal of the other 10%.  Those who love wine the way I do, eager novices, seasoned collectors, evangelical buyers, beverage managers, and total nerds… teaching them, learning from them, sharing incredible bottles with them… all of that has been completely satisfying.  I can’t say I’d have been able to meet those precious few without taking the leap into this endeavor.
I think I could live in Oregon…

…based on summertime visits, at least.  They say it’s a cold, rainy, miserable place, but I’ve only experienced Portland and the Willamette Valley twice:  June of 2010 and August of 2012.  Beautiful, warm, and gloriously unspoiled (the suburbs of Portland don’t just seem to bleed and bleed into the country like they do in the massive sprawl of Atlanta).  Okay, the beach was cold, but I’m super-pale by nature anyway, and terrified of sharks, so I don’t need a hot beach.  There is good wine, great beer, lots of fresh produce, seafood, meats, and cheeses.  Houses in wine country are cheap.  The restaurant options in Portlandia are magical.  I got a fried pie filled with macaroni & cheese and bacon from a food truck.

There’s and ideal vibe:  city living, but small-city living, with wine country and plenty of access to wholesome ingredients for cooking.  It just seems right.

Downsides:  no NFL team.  But I could watch the Falcons at 10 AM and consistent get out of going to church.  Perhaps the schools are crappy.  Taxes might be bad.  Oh, and my wife grew up in Phoenix.  That’ll be a tough sell…

Former (and current) Atlantans make some wine…

Great to see pals Hardy (former Atlantan) and Matt (aka “Rowdy”, current Atlantan) release their first wines.  Good stuff will silly labels, and I wish them much success.  These two have showered extraordinary generosity upon me in many ways over the past few years, so I am eternally in their corner as they grow a business that is damn stinkin’ hard to make thrive.

Also excited for buddy Ed Thralls (former Atlantan) to release his first Pinot Noir from his new label, Thralls Family Cellars.  I tasted an early bottling (admittedly, while my palate was not its sharpest), and I expect big things.  Likewise, the Thralls have been wonderful and generous to me.

Not necessarily making wine (that I know of), but proud to see another friend- Matt Mauldin (former Atlantan)- working with Joe Davis over at Arcadian in Santa Barbara County.  Maybe the seemingly even-keeled Matt can keep Joe in line a bit, but it could be tough.

Happiest Place on Earth?

The EPCOT Food & Wine Festival took the proud tradition of the World Showcase Pub Crawl to new levels.  Kiosks are set up in the park, featuring food and drink from not only the 13 countries with permanent outposts, but probably 30 others interspersed.  I expected clichéd dishes like “shrimp on the barbie” from the Australian kiosk, but was pleasantly surprised with EPCOT going out on a limb a bit:  France, for example, was serving escargots.  Can’t beat snails-to-go.

Beer was represented heavily, and the wine flowed freely (but not “free” as in the sense that it didn’t cost a pretty penny).  Many of the wines were the widely-distributed, usual suspects, but gems could be found (Selbach-Oster Spätlese Riesling found deep behind German lines).

The festival runs every November.  If you need to erase the haunting jingle of “It’s a Small World” from your mind, $200 and 40 drinks can do so quickly.  Bring in-laws as a quick fix for babysitting the little one(s).

What about 2013?

No idea what to expect.  But I feel the path down which life is taking me is starting to clear, and I think- for the first time in a while- I’m getting my feet beneath me.  No matter what happens, to all those who have supported and encouraged me to take an easily ill-advised leap of faith, I sincerely thank you.

Now excuse me while I go stalk Emilio Estevez on Twitter.

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Well, now what am I going to do?

December 21, 2012
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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.

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

December 17, 2012
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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.

The Taco that Launched A Thousand Insults

October 22, 2012
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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.

Posted in Taco Bell


October 19, 2012
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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…
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.  

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40 Days of Writing

October 16, 2012
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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:

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.

Is Georgia Willing its Teams to Lose?

October 12, 2012
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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.

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