Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Out of the Ashes?

July 13, 2012
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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.

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Simmering Down

December 12, 2011
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Had a bit of a whiny rant go down late last week that came off (to me) as unappreciative.

Spent the entire weekend basking in the glory of lots of good wine, great friends, and amazing food.  Put in perspective how the wine world has so positively affected my life.  A really useful lesson in focusing one what is important.  Indeed, the “business” side of wine and marketing can draw us away from it’s ultimate goal:  enjoyment.  From Friday night through today, that goal was achieved.

Oh, and another milestone this weekend:  I finally got a damn octopus to be tender.  More on that later, as the epic saga between me and the octopodes continues…


Posted in octopus, thoughts, videos

Suburban Wino Headquarters: Wine Sample Black Hole

December 9, 2011
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Are we talking a matter of proper etiquette here?  Or should people know better?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  First off, wine bottles can’t talk.  Nor do they have arms.  Plus, sound doesn’t even exist in outer space, so even if wine bottles could talk (which they can’t), you wouldn’t hear them screaming.  But if they could scream, and we could- in cases where sound does not exist- see what they were screaming (sort of like a “closed captioning” for outer space situations) I’m pretty confident they would scream in some sort of Blade Runner font.  But only in outer space.  If said wine bottle was in the mountains of Tennessee, it would scream in more of a “log cabin” font.  But, since being in Tennessee and not in space, we would be able to hear the screams, thus, the need for real-life closed-captioning would be moot.  And there’d be no reason for a wine bottle to scream in the mountains of Tennessee anyway.  That is, of course, unless it came upon a band of crazed mountain folk, all hopped up on mountain dew and such.

Which brings me to my first thought:  why would anyone want to send wine samples to a blogger who is really (truly) concerned about wine bottles in space?  What am I supposed to do with these bottles of wine they send?  I don’t even have a spaceship.

No doubt, many a wine blogger probably broke ground with visions of free wine.  Admittedly, when I was offered my first sample bottles (I’ll never forget you, Two Friends Imports), I had that “aha” moment that a deluge of good times were around the bend.  Freewheelin’.  Poppin’ corks like Ted Danson was in town or something.  Yet, it was not the reason why I started doing this.  Honestly, it never occurred to me that free wine might be part of the deal.

photo credit:  gq.com

So, on the rare occasions when I’d get some free wine, I’d give it all a nice, evaluative taste, and then I’d post my thoughts on the blawg.  Tasting notes and whatnot.  Still, I figured doing all this was part of the game, but it wasn’t my wheelhouse.

After a couple years in, I had another epiphany:  I don’t like tasting notes.  Even more so, I don’t like to read someone else’s tasting notes.  Not exclusively, at least.  Not that there’s anything wrong with tasting notes.  They help many folks build a memory of familiar smells.  But, to me, they aren’t interesting to read unless I’m drinking that same wine at the exact moment that I happen to come across said tasting notes.  Or unless I’ve had the wine before.  Neither of which happen very often.  Instead, I’m stuck reading a memoir of someone else’s senses.

Honestly, there a few folks who can pull them off.  When Samantha Dugan writes a tasting note, I immediately want to go find that wine and drink it until slip into a haze that finds me lounging carelessly in a hammock for hours.  But it’s not where her bread is buttered.  They just happen to work when she does sling ’em.

When people I really like (say, a Steve Paulo, a Joe Roberts, or a Ben Carter) want to do notes, I can appreciate that they’re just trying to keep the tasting chops sharp and honestly educate.  Plus, folks like them already have bodies of work that lends honesty to the notes.

But, too often, I read, “I tasted under-ripe bing cherries and bartlett pear skins and the essence of dew upon spring’s first stinging nettles.”  And that makes me want to break a bottle of wine and stab things with it.  Because it’s so full of shit that anyone who wants to get into drinking wine must get the feeling that you have to be full of the same measure of shit to enjoy a dang alcoholic beverage made out of grapes.  Poppycock! (forgive the blue language)

Anyone who has taken the time to stop by this blawg should probably know that I don’t write any tasting notes and I don’t really evaluate any wines.  PR companies that popped by here couldn’t possibly think that this is a “hotbed of wine evaluation”.  If they keep sending them and keep offering to send them, am I being rude and “unprofessional” (as if there’s anything “professional” going on here) if they don’t get posted?  Furthermore, if I lay out in advance that “you can send me wine, but I will almost assuredly not get around to writing about it”, does that exonerate me from the common courtesy of acknowledging these wines?

For some bloggers (like Beau Carufel, whom I like a lot), the answer is “no”.  According to Beau, “Wine bloggers are under an obligation, which more and more of us seem to forget or dismiss, to write about what we’re sent.”  Totally disagree.  If I have a taco blog, and someone sends me sauerbraten, am I obligated to talk about it?  No!  So, if I’m not a “review blog”, then no one should expect reviews.  If they didn’t do their homework, then tough…

…alas, then I start feeling like a jerkass.  Thumbing my nose at free wine, and coming off as trying to big-time a little winery that is just trying to get some publicity in a saturated market.  Was Nigel Tufnel this conflicted after demanding same-sized meats for his tiny bread?

photo credit:  celebrityrockguitars.com


So, as this is a de facto swan song for my days of receiving free wine samples, I might as well list as many thoughts as I can get out here:

1.  I think Twitter tastings are cool.  If I get some stuff designed for a twitter tasting, I usually tend to participate.  Yeah, it’s a bunch of people shooting out tasting notes, but I’m tasting along with them, so it’s all good to compare and contrast and learn together.  That said, if you were following me on Twitter and weren’t involved in the Twitter tasting in question, how you wouldn’t be compelled to unfollow (at least temporarily) is beyond me.


2.  If I do get anything, I never give it away.  I will always open it and taste it objectively by myself.  After that, it may be consumed, used for cooking, slugged with friends, poured down the drain, or given to hobos who are 21 years of age or older.  Cause there’s nothing more depressing than an underaged hobo with a discarded bottle of sample wine.

3.  Reed’s, a soft drink company, sent me a non-alcoholic soda called “Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer”.  It tastes like something that dead elves who go to elf heaven probably drink.  Flying Cauldron butterscotch beer is sent directly from elf heaven.  It’s that freaking delicious.  A PR person asked if they could send me some as a sample.  I said, “yes, and I will absolutely be sure to talk about it on the blog, you magical purveyors of the preferred beverage of elf angels.”

4.  There are a few PR folks and wineries that are really cool and whom I like.  And if I have a relationship with someone, there’s a better chance that I’d have an emotional connection to the product and want to write about it.  Such is human nature.  I’m no critic, just a dude that cranks away at a keyboard sometimes.  That may not be an objective approach, but I’m not in line for a job at the Wine Advocate either.

5.  I recently tasted through some wines from Tudal Family Winery (that were sent to me as samples).  They were really good.  Very balanced, with reasonable alcohol.  Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel Blend, and a few Cabernets.  Tasty with the steak and sauteed broccolini I made.  After tasting them, and then drinking them with the food, I took them out by the fire pit and drank them by the fire.  They were really good there, too.  Made me with I had a hammock out there.  So, I guess you’d say that Tudal Family makes some really tasty steak/broccolini/outside/campfire/hammock wines.  That’s about as good as I can do for a tasting note.


6.  Anyone who thinks my approach isn’t correct, or isn’t “serious” enough, or is setting wine blogging back is taking him/herself too seriously.  


Jumping the Shark

November 29, 2011
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photo credit: destinyland.org

It’s a phrase derived from the fifth season of the sitcom Happy Days.  The Fonz, in an effort to prove his bravery, decides to jump over a penned-in shark while on water skis.  To Happy Days purists (are there such things?), it was also a clear indication that the writers had run out of material.  To this day, the saying “jumping the shark” refers to the seminal point at which something good had taken an inevitable and irreversible turn-for-the-worse.
I- for one- cannot find anything wrong with combination of a pudding pop-cool Henry Winkler and the ominous presence of hungry, hungry sharks.  There’s got to be a whole spin-off here… 
Alas, I am not a successful sitcom writer.  But, I do write quite a bit.  This is post three-hundred and something.  And, over some post-Thanksgiving brews with some friends, I was told that the blog used to be great, but now it’s in an awkward limbo between “speaking to the regular joe” and “pandering to the wine aficionado”.  According to my friends, I’ve spent too much time immersed in wine and its complex language, and now my posts have fallen into the tar pits of jargon and disrespect for the audience.
Begs the question:  has Suburban Wino jumped the shark?  Or- given my inability to water ski- did everything end in a horrific crash into the shark pit?  Why did I agree to do this?  I’ve never been able to get up on those damn skis!  And now a shark is eating my armpit.
photo credit:  huffingtonpost.com

I suppose it’s very easy to get caught up in the complexities and subtleties of viticulture, winemaking, label laws, aromas, flavors, and all the crap that fills the pages of a Wine Spectator.  At the basest form, we’re really talking about an alcoholic beverage.  A food product, designed to give sensory pleasure.  And it’s always been my vision to convince others to share just a fraction of my fascination with this food product.  Understandably, a body of work evolves over time.  But once it deviates from it’s desired path, things can go awry.

There’s certainly nothing extraordinary about me; consider myself a pretty regular dude.  So, I’ve always hoped to relay wine into the context of a regular dude.  Guess as I’ve burrowed deep into the rabbit-hole, I’ve lost sight of where I began to dig.

Humbling, but quite necessary feedback, if I’m to succeed in my vision.  Or, perhaps the vision has changed.  Or, maybe none of it matters.  In any case, I guess it’s time to drop back and punt…
To the wine aficionados:  that’s a football reference.


My Flux Capacitor (or, "The Wine Consumer, Compartmentalized")

August 12, 2011
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The one (absolutely only) redeeming quality of an awful commute is that it gives you time to think…
Even this is a stretch, but as someone who cruises 17 miles and 39 traffic lights twice-a-day, I have to justify this baffling madness. If only for sanity’s sake.
Today’s wandering mind took me into retail wine sales. As I concentrated over the creeping, sweaty feeling of my air conditioning perhaps breaking again, things became very clear. Too clear. Sort of a zen-like clarity of thought, not experienced since I realized “race car” spelled backwards is “race car”.
Quite honestly, I felt like Doctor Emmett Brown after he hit his head on that 1955 toilet, jarring loose the vision of the flux capacitor, which… makes… time… travel possible.
Unfortunately, my epiphany- a sweaty guy sitting in Atlanta traffic thinking about how to sell wine- would make a far-worse movie. But here it is anyway:
Colorful, huh? What does it mean??
Well, here’s where I’m going: seems that all wine consumers can be roughly lumped into four categories, based solely on two criteria: wine knowledge, and wine curiosity.
1. The Disinterested Creatures of Habit (low knowledge, low curiosity): otherwise known as the “gimme my 1.5L of Woodbridge, sonny!” crowd, these folks know what they like, are adverse to change, and don’t want to try new things. They are loyal to brands, appreciate consistency, and have little interest in learning about wine. As my mother once said when we ate filet mignon and drank KJ Chardonnay for the ten-millionth time on her birthday, “Son, I’ve been around. I’ve tried everything. And now, I just know what I like.” For the record, mom is not ten million years old. Not even close.
I suspect the Disinterested Creatures of Habit don’t cause shop owners many problems, and turn a good business. But they’re probably not much fun to work with, and they buy low-end, with low margin, but perhaps high-volume, sales.
2. The Annoying-as-Hell Know-it-All (high knowledge, low curiosity): I do not work in wine retail, but I can only suspect how many insecure, blabber-mouthed twits come into to wine stores to challenge the personnel. “Oh, really? ‘Grenache’ from Spain? Don’t you mean [with a disturbing, overdone Spanish accent] Gar-nacha??” As I said, I don’t work in retail, so I don’t know if this actually happens, but based on the proliferation of snobbery and one-upsmanship that oozes from the world of wine, I wouldn’t be surprised.
The “listen to how much I know” guy or gal is probably a terror to engage. But, they probably buy some more-expensive stuff, based on some knowledge, and a level of understanding in the production of wine. Higher price doesn’t always equate to higher quality, but- as they say- you pay for what you get.
3. The Geek (high knowledge, high curiosity): for lack of a better adjective, these are the most “enlightened” of all consumers. They are the ones who don’t only ask for the weirdest, most unique bottle, but they bring in something crazy for the shop owner to try. The “let’s get weird” crowd would hang around the store for hours and hours, just to be surrounded by wine, and people who like talking about it. The advantage of these folks would be that they know what they know, but they also know what they don’t know. This crowd also understands the sheer vastness of wine, and it always looking to try something new.
For these reasons, the geeks are open to suggestions, check their egos at the door, and just want to enjoy the shopkeeper’s latest gems.
4. The Eager Novice (low knowledge, high curiosity): with all due respect to the geeks, these folks are probably the best of the bunch. Because, not only do they love wine, but they are yet-to-be jaded, spoiled, or too critical (stages that all wine geeks seem to go through, yours-truly included). From a geek’s perspective, the Eager Novices are sponges for knowledge. They love to learn, and geeks love to teach. This crowd wants to try new things, takes an earnest interest in information that would send most folks into a coma, and ask all the fun questions. They are primed to be molded into future geeks.
From a sales standpoint, shop owners should never let the Eager Novices out of their clutches. If I am honest, genuine, and can provide valuable information, education, and recommendations, I’m going to create a great deal of loyalty from those who thirst for that knowledge. And as novices become geeks, they may bring new novices into the fold…
***
But, alas, these are merely the thoughts of a traffic-jam. If only I had hit 88 miles per hour…

What an Interstate Rest Area taught me about Wine

August 1, 2011
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Truth that wine is everywhere, if you want it to be. Even on an uninspired stretch of highway between Atlanta and Macon…
…and no, there weren’t a couple of escaped convicts stirring a batch of pruno in one of the toilet reservoirs. You know I would’ve gotten a picture of that jive. And probably a taste. And then a shiv in the ribs, otherwise known as a “Putnam County tickle”.
Actually, I was heading down to middle Georgia to snap some shots of a renovation project-in-progress for the day job. I should really carry the camera with me more often. When you know you can capture something on film, so many more interesting things pop out at you.
So, I snapped a shot of an unassuming rest area bathroom. I had to: it reminded me of Walt Disney World. As soon as I walked in to that very clean space (kudos, state of Georgia), the powerful scent of bleach and cleaners smelled exactly- EXACTLY- like it did during childhood trips to Disney. The brood would pile into whatever prototypical family vehicle we had at the time (be it conversion van or station wagon), and roll down I-75 for 7 hours until we hit Orlando. Being pea-bladdered kids, we must’ve stopped twenty times at rest areas. I don’t know how Dad did it.
But what I do know is that moments like these only strengthen my conviction towards the evidence that suggests a strong connection between emotions and olfactory memory. Considering I was on the way to the greatest place on Earth for a child of 5-10 years old, there was a heap of anticipation associated with that endless drive. Ergo, I step into a public restroom 25 years later, and I’m immediately whisked back to Space Mountain and mouse ears.
To this end, I’ve also noticed that the aromas in wine that are most familiar to me often stem from moments when I was enjoying a glass with friends, loved ones, or overlooking vineyards (the latter- I believe- explains why a bottle brought home from wine country never seems to taste as good as it did while you were there). So, I posit that if you want to learn more about wine, and build up your olfactory memory, don’t forget to step away from the tasting table once and a while. Take a break from critical analyses and blitzkrieg tasting shows. Grab a bottle, and some friends, pour a glass, stick your nose down in it, and inhale. Take your time. Enjoy the wine. Savor the moment. And you may find you’ve learned more from that glass than you could from a dozen trade tastings…
…unless it’s a glass of pruno. Swig that shizz down and pray for the gag reflex.

Posted in olfactory, thoughts

Civil War returns to the Commonwealth

July 29, 2011
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As soon as the chaps at Zephyr Adventures unleashed the announcement that Charlottesville, VA would host the 2011 Wine Bloggers’ Conference, I knew there’d be controversy. Allan Wright might as well have been Ed McMahon, announcing a perfect score for Sinbad over Dennis Miller’s 3.5 stars on that ill-fated night in Star Search history. Out of left field, California heavyweight Paso Robles and- if the conference was to move East- shoe-in “big four” producer New York were kicked to the curb in favor of…

…Virginia?!
Immediately, I already heard the shit fly in corners of the room, on the bus back to Seattle, online:
“Clearly, the organizers took the highest bid. The vote was ignored.”
“Do they even make wine back East? I don’t want to drink a bunch of muscadine.”
Ad nauseam. Or so it seemed to me. As a proud East-coaster with lots of left coast friends, I guess I hear this stuff once in a while, so it tends to put me on the defensive. Turns out Virginia is the 5th largest producer of wine in the States, right behind Oregon, but the folks in California can seem to dismiss anything outside of California. Again, that’s how it sometimes seems to me. Maybe I just see East-West wine relations though piss-n-vinegar colored glasses.
So, given my preemptive position of defense- mobilized with a state within driving distance of my own, I went on the attack on Twitter, started preaching the importance of terroir, begged folks to come to beautiful Charlottesville (while thinking it was an underwhelming place, on paper). Admittedly, I was not as jazzed about the prospects of Charlottesville as I was about the other two proposed locations. Alas, that which is most familar (in this case, in terrain, flora, fauna, and climate) is often least exotic. Sort of like why I pass Chick-Fil-A every day, but will freak out if I don’t get an In-N-Out burger when out West. Animal-style, my friends. I ain’t no dummy.
Furthermore, we’d be dealing with Virginia wine. Most of those in-the-know have heard quite a bit about the state’s burgeoning industry, but few have tasted. If it were good, wouldn’t it be distributed better, so folks outside of VA could get a taste? Well, these wines are not distributed well (another issue altogether), so we outside the Commonwealth would be dealing with the unfamiliar. And unfamiliar is scary.
In short, I was pulling like hell for Charlottesville- and the wines of Virginia- to hit a home run. But I feared the Commonwealth had warning-track power, at best. At least I assumed this notion in the minds of Californians (sorry Oregon and Washington, you’re getting lumped in. Squeakiest wheel…).
So, when I heard pals from the Bay and friends from L.A. claim how impressed- across the board- they were with the quality of Virginia wine, it really warmed my cold, East-coast heart. I’d assumed the worst, and soon realized that, for the most part, our friends from the West had come with open minds, and curious palates. In fact, a handful of bloggers had been teased with samples of Viognier, a white grape seeming to grow well in the Shenandoah hills. But, to me and several others, pockets of the reds were extraordinarily surprising. Nebbiolo and Cabernet Franc from Barboursville Vineyards showed restraint, complexity, and potential for aging. Petit Verdot from Jefferson Vineyards turned some heads… even those still on Pacific time. Not an epiphany, but a feather in the cap of an extraordinary underdog. And relief for this homer.
That said, there were also some pretty unimpressive wines. And with them came a hearty serving of snark, particularly from freak-nasty folks like natural wine purist and fellow (former, but always honorary) ATLien, Hardy Wallace.
In a way, I sort of get it. I heard a Virginia winemaker discuss “unique terroir” and go into how his wine is “made in the vineyard”, then elaborate on deliberate acidification, manipulation, the dozens of fungicide sprayings that are required to eliminate vine-stifling powdery and downy mildew. Is there any real terroir if grapes can’t naturally grow there?
Yet, I don’t think this is a Virginia problem. There are plenty of awful, heavily-manipulated wines from every corner of the world, even King California (and for goodness sake, there’s a popular fungicide called “Bordeaux Mixture”). I think the gripes from Hardy and folks like Richard Jennings were not pointed directly at the host State, but the popular industry in general. Indeed, many wines poured at the sponsored events, as well as “speed tastings” (a whole other animal not worth elaborating upon), left a lot to be desired. At least to the experienced (perhaps spoiled) palate, with which many of use are blessed/cursed.
However, in my relatively short experience with Wine Bloggers’ Conferences, I don’t really expect the sponsor wines to show well. Some do, but for the most part, they’re widgets of the wine marketing machine, designed for the common denominator. It’s a shame, because the conference clientele is a mess of wine geeks. Regardless, I write them off as educational; a means to picking out what I like and do not like in wine.
To me, where the real, true value of these conferences lies is in the camaraderie, and the contraband… wines, beers, and liquors smuggled in; each participant’s personal “stash”. We all communicate online for the entire year, and in the few days we get to carouse in person, the ones who “get it” put down their phones, leave their laptops in the room, and disconnect- in order to try connect. Side-events and after parties showcase the best that people- and their home states or favorite places- have to offer. We jockey to wow each other, shift some paradigms, and puff out our chests a bit. New friends are made, as cliques eventually break down, and people step away from their devices, put themselves out there, and say, “hey, nice to finally meet you in person.” Then, they pop corks or bottle caps and say, with a gleeful smirk, “come ‘ere. You just gotta try this.”
At last, we drink instead of think, we toast instead of taste, and we celebrate the fact that wine- which has always brought people together- is bigger than blogs, tweets, tasting notes, breakout sessions, sponsors, Google analytics, readership, geographic bias, and regional differences. Wine courses through all our veins, and we realize that no matter where the grapes are grown or where the hotel is situated, everything is in the right place…
…and, of course, if you got nothing out of this post, as promised:

Still handcuffed by Virginia

July 27, 2011
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Sitting on edit #4 “on paper”, and probably thought #500 in my nebulous cranial space…

Just really don’t know how to approach my thoughts on Virginia, on wine, on bloggers, and on blogger conferences. And, of course, the cosmic collision of them all.

I could fill a book with my feelings of gratitude, confusion, defensiveness, agitation, admiration, surprise, and other sundried adjectives to describe an addled mind. But a blog post is no place for a book’s-worth of words (looking back on many posts, I need to tie a string around my finger on that one).

In an effort to better formulate my own opinions, I’ve gone out and read the reaction of those who were quick(er) on the trigger. I saw a (quite) thorough account of disappointment, light-heartedness, pleasant surprise, a weird mashup of snark/gratitude, and some understandable defensive positioning from homers. Funny how I don’t remember this variance of reaction after Walla Walla. However, so much opinion out there makes one introspect quite a bit. What did I get out of it all? I think I know, but translating it to the written word is shaping up to be quite a… well, a bitch.

Looks like the only way that things can be sorted out is to break this mess up:

1. Talkin’ wine
2. Talkin’ conference
3. Talkin’ blogging

But why the disclaimer? Because I know that many of you who read this are not bloggers. And many don’t care about a conference that went down in Charlottesville, Virginia. However, I trust that there will be bits of value to any readers in these posts.

And if there is not broad-reaching value, I’ll post a picture of monkey doing gymnastics or something…


Stuck on First Impressions

July 6, 2011
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When someone tells me he doesn’t like wine, I sort of get it. It’s simply a case of a bad introduction.

Not so oddly (bear with me), I credit George Harrison with this surprising measure of leniency/understanding. For anyone who has lived under a rock for the past 50 years (or, for the legal-drinking citizens reading this blog who were born in 1990… cripes!), Harrison was one of the original Beatles, an accomplished songwriter, an amazing solo artist, and a ridiculous guitarist. I mean, the guy wrote “Something”, dammit. And- of course- he put together All Things Must Pass, perhaps- in this guy’s humble opinion- one of the finest rock albums ever compiled in the history of popular music. George Harrison was masterful; an icon. Rock & Roll history must be re-written without him.
Alas, this was not my first impression of the “quiet one”.
In 1987, I was eight years old. My older brother- sort of a rock & roll appreciation savant– kept a healthy dose of MTV and VH1 on the tube at this point. Amidst the extraordinary cheese being pumped out by ailing acts like Billy Ocean and Mr. Mister, I distinctly remember a particularly-creepy fellow with an awful mullet and a penciled-in five o’clock shadow playing campy guitar riffs while some 80’s jerk-ass tried to get a prize out of one of those jerk-ass claw games at some jerk-ass arcade for some jerk-ass 80’s dream girl. I further recall that stupid song being played during elementary school physical education classes, usually involving me having to dance with girls. At eight years old. Not cool.

Alas, the artist was George Harrison, and the song was “Got My Mind Set On You”, a cover of a James Ray R&B tune from 1962. I don’t remember much more than I’ve already described, but one thing was (and still is) clear: it sucked. The day I found out Harrison was the lead guitarist for the Beatles, I was stunned at how one person could fall so far from grace*.
Unfortunately for this little tike, I harbored quite a lot of ill-will towards a great musician, based solely on a first-impression that painted a very atypical picture of the body of work. Such is- far too often- the case with wine.
Some people love Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay. That’s fine. More power to ’em. Yet, some find it to be vile, nay, unholy. Here’s the rub: I posit that rather often, folks’ first impressions of the noble Chardonnay grape is in the form of a bottle of TBC (or equivalent) at a backyard cookout, a tailgate, an engagement party. I further suggest that a good measure of these people think it does not taste very appealing. At that point, they make a broad-brushed declaration that Chardonnay is no good, and not for them (or even worse, wine in general).

Sadly, Two Buck Chuck is a widespread and easily-acquired ambassador of a grape that produces some of the most expressive and complex wines in the world. However, because of an unsavory introduction, a stigma has been created; one that can be difficult to shake for some. However, I can imagine how this situation could be completely reversed. What if a person’s first taste of Chardonnay was in the form of an incredible Puligny-Montrachet, for example? One chance encounter (unfortunately, leaning heavily towards the cheap stuff, based on availability and price) could mean the difference between a wine-hater and an instant oenophile.
Here’s my point: those who have made up your mind, open it again. Like in the world of music, even the same artist- hell, the same song- can be manifested in dozens, hundreds of styles and expressions. And if you still can’t make peace with Rock & Roll’s Chardonnay, there’s always Techno’s Riesling, Classical’s Pinot Noir, Reggae’s Roussanne, and Hip Hop’s Mourvèdre.
*for the record, I don’t hold George Harrison responsible for that crap. I blame Jeff Lynne, that over-producing sunuvabitch. Keep your ELO** away from my Beatles, you curly-headed freak.

**actually, I kinda like the Electric Light Orchestra.


Avoidably Detained

June 29, 2011
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It’s not that I don’t love you, I just love Champagne more. Or, should I say, I love to pop some bottles for good friends.
Off a roughly-seven month run consisting of kids’ birthdays, family events, weddings, and the miscellany consuming the life of a thirty-something suburbanite, the past weekend seemed an appropriate time to slow down and enjoy. Fun and food with good neighbors, some splashing around and hopefully-not-pooping-in-it pool time with the li’l critter, and general relaxation. Rather, relaxation that has been a leprechaun riding a unicorn. That is to say, rare (but surprisingly easy to find online).
So, while the blog is peppered with occasional posts in which I feebly gripe about being too busy to write, I’ve penned this one to say I haven’t posted in 5 days because I desired to get off the grid. Take some time to enjoy the blessings that have surround me. You know, at least for a couple days.
Funny how we can get so caught up in studying wine, discussing wine, analyzing wine, and arguing about it. The past weekend has served as a good reminder that our beloved beverage works its most-brilliant wonders when it is simply enjoyed in the company of friends…
…and I was talking about the kid pooping in the pool, not me. But I can see how that would throw some folks.

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