Archive for the ‘Wine Funny Stuff’ Category

KISS and Wine Writing

wordsHow do you talk about wine without talking about wine?

That’s roughly the question posed by Mike Steinberger in his blog, Wine He wrote a post about the way all of us wine writers, bloggers, and critics describe the wines we’re writing about. “Tasting Notes” are what we call our descriptions of how a wine looks, smells, and tastes.

OK, tasting notes don’t sound too controversial, and it seems they serve a useful purpose. The thing about them is… I for one am sick to death of reading them and writing them. Traditional Tasting Notes can be:

  • the same old “blah, blah, blah”;
  • ambiguous and misleading;
  • total gibberish; or
  • a pack of downright lies.

The truth is, there are only so many descriptors we can use, and so we use them again and again, ad nauseum. For fruit characteristics, we talk about cherry, black cherry, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, black raspberry, and in one notable case, qumquat.

“Qumquat?” I read that in a tasting note somewhere and set out to find one so I would know what it tastes like. I shouldn’t have bothered — it tastes like grapefruit mixed with essence of dirty socks. Scratch that word off the descriptor list…

And what about those earthy/savory components? It’s not unusual to read about forest floor, pencil shavings, musk, or my personal favorite, wet bush. But who really relates to those things? When was the last time you tasted pencil shavings?

Here’s the thing — we’re trying (lamely) to use words to describe a very visceral experience, and it doesn’t always work. I suggest we revert to the kind of notes I used to read in Wine X Magazine. I loved that magazine’s style (back in the Olden Days when there were actually printed magazines instead of e-everything).

A review in Wine X would go something like this:

“Drinking this Cabernet is like making love in the vegetable aisle.”

Now that’s a review that captures a sensory experience, and gets your imagination working to boot. I think the wine writing community should make a pledge now:

  • No more notes describing the wine. We’ll describe how we feel when we drink the wine.

Can’t you just see it now? Reviews will be short and to the point:

  • “This wine will remind you of when your mother made you eat those disgusting lima beans,” or
  • “This wine oughta replace Viagra in the ED ads.”

I like it: simple, straight-forward, and insightful. Let me know if you agree with me, and if you’ll join me in the pledge. Cheers!

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Chateau Petrus or Chateau El Cheapo?

Hpetrusere’s a cute story reported by Wine Spectator’s blog, “Unfiltered.” It concerns a wine that’s surely the world’s most expensive Merlot. cheap

• A young lady in France was caught last month trying to get a discount on a few bottles of Château Pétrus, switching the barcodes on the $3,300 bottles with ones on bottles priced $3.50. This occurred at a Dordogne outlet of the supermarket Leclerc; the company’s wine buyer said such occurrences are common.

Really? In France, they have lots of $3,300 bottles of wine sitting on grocery store shelves? I guess it ain’t the Piggly Wiggly…


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Wine and Millennials: “Everything Old Is New Again”

millennialsOK, I’ll try not to sound like an old geezer when I say this — I’m really tired of pandering to “Millennials.” It seems like every ambitious marketer and academic is studying or reporting on the habits and preferences of this category, which is supposed to be the focus of our sales and marketing efforts for everything from cars to computers to wine.

Here’s the latest overblown academic treatise that set me cursing:

Dr. Liz Thach MW, Korbel Professor of Wine Business & Management at Sonoma State University, released a study on the wine drinking habits of Millennials. Now before I go any further, let me specify that Millennials are defined as people born between 1980 and 2000 (give or take), and are also known Gen Y. They followed the previously famous Gen X, and they’re basically the children of the Post WWII Baby Boomers.

Have you got that? I know I’ve got two — Millennials, I mean. I (a self-confessed Baby Boomer) produced two children in the 1980′s, so I’ve had a chance to examine the care and feeding of this group in a very “up close and personal” way. I don’t feel I need an academic study to analyze their behavior, but I’ll go along with it. Hey, it may tell me something useful for my wine business.

This study, which was commissioned by the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University, was designed to determine the most common occasions during which young people drink wine. Here are the results.

The two wine-drinking occasions listed most often are Special Occasions and  Drinking Wine with Meals at a Formal Restaurant. Nothing revolutionary there, and in fact the study says these were the most common occasions listed by previous generations (including mine).

Next most popular: Family Get Togethers, Special Events (graduation, weddings, etc.), Friend’s Night, Parties, Theme Nights (movies, games, etc.) Date Nights/Romance, On Vacation.

OK, I’m waiting for something I don’t know already. Aren’t these the exact same occasions during which we Baby Boomers consume wine now? And that were popular when we were the 20-Something Generation (they didn’t give us initials like X and Y back then)? Read the rest of this entry »

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Sports Team Owner Jump Starts Restaurant Business


From Wine Enthusiast: Dallas Mavericks player Dirk Nowitski drinks the extra-large bottle of Armand be Brignac champagne.

It’s no secret that the restaurant biz — particularly the high-end restaurant biz — was hit hard by the Great Recession. If you’ve been living under a rock and weren’t aware how much they’ve been struggling, you can read my post about the misfortunes that have befallen fine dining establishments (“Ode to Overpriced Restaurant Wines”).

So it was thrilling to read that one billionaire is doing his best to single-handedly jump-start the luxury night-club biz and enrich at least one club and its staff. Here’s the story I just spied in

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban spent a whopping $110,000 while celebrating at the trendy nightclub Liv at Miami’s Fontainebleau after winning the NBA Championship against the Heat on Sunday night. Cuban spent $90,000 on an oversized bottle of Armand de Brignac Champagne for teammates Dirk Nowitzki, Brian Cardinal, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion in celebration of their victory, which they finished in a mere four hours. But that’s not all. When the bill arrived, Cuban left an additional $20,000 tip for the wait staff. According to Forbes, he’s ranked 459th on the “World’s Richest People” list and has a net worth of $2.5 billion.

Wow. God bless the guy for being willing to part with that much cash for a single bar item. But here’s what I’m trying to figure out:

The “Armand de Brignac” the big guys were enjoying must be the famous “Ace of Spades,” made infamous by rappers like Jay-Z who’re seen quaffing it in rap videos. Ace of Spades has become the Must-Have Drink du Jour of celebrities and celebrity-wannabe’s.

On the internet (and in my shop) a regular size bottle of Ace of Spades goes for $250. In a luxury club or restaurant in a place like Vegas or New York, I’m guessing that 750ml bottle could go for $1000 — or I’ll go nuts and say it’s on the list for $2000.

So how big does the bottle have to be to be listed for $90,000?? That’s 45 times more money than the regular bottle!

You know, I should stop belaboring that point. Who cares how big it was, or how astronomically over-priced it seems. If Liv nightclub wants to charge $90,00 for a bottle of wine, and if Mr. Cuban is willing to pay it, then good for them. I thank them all for doing their bit to enliven the U.S. entertainment scene.

And oh yeah — thanks for beating the Heat, too.

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The Wine Lady: Great Wine With Take-out Food

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Open That Bottle! Join the International OTBN Wine Event

old btlsI’ve seen it way too often. Casual or serious wine collectors have cellars where they carefully guard their prized wine collection. They delight in telling me about their 1982 French, or 1987 Napa, or whatever. When I ask, “So have you enjoyed any lately?”, they invariably say, “I’m waiting for the right occasion to open something.”

Guess what? Any occasion is the right occasion for a great bottle of wine! If you keep putting off the pleasure because it’s not a good enough occasion, you may just find that… you’ve run out of occasions!  And worse yet, you’ve run out of drinkable wine. Because too often, cellar dorks keep their wines cloistered beyond the point when they were at their peak. I can’t tell you how often I’ve sat around a table swirling my 19whatever and heard, “Damn, I should have opened this last year.” Or the year before, or the year before that.

So here’s a great way to avoid all that sorrow. Participate in this year’s Open That Bottle Night on February 26, 2011. I read about this on one of my favorite blob/websites,, which is manned by a group of very fun Australian and New Zealand wine freaks. They reminded me that the last Saturday in February has become an International Wine Event. Anyone and everyone can participate at a restaurant or in someone’s home. The only stipulation is that everyone bring a bottle they’ve been waiting to open. “It could be a special vintage, your dad’s favourite wine, the wine you enjoyed on your first date or one you bought on a memorable visit to a winery. Or if you aren’t saving a wine (wine is meant to be drunk after all!) OTBN is a good excuse to go out and buy a bottle and treat yourself.”

My feelings exactly. So start planning your evening now. Call up some family and friends — anyone who also enjoys good wine (that leaves out half my family). Commandeer someone’s dining room table (the biggest you can find), and start searching your recipes for a wine-friendly dish to bring along with your wine.

It sounds like a blast. Stay tuned, because I’ll report on our OTBN and I’d like to hear some comments on yours, too. Cheers!

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Fore! Wine & Golf Team Up

golfYou’ve probably noticed how every major sports organization creates sponsorships of every conceivable kind, some only vaguely related to the sport in question. You know what I mean — we have the “Official Hamburger of the Olympic Games,” “The Official Car of the National Football League,” and “The Official Scotch Tape of Nascar.”

Now we have “The Official Wine of the PGA of America.” But don’t think I’m complaining! I love wine, and I love golf, and if someone can give me an excuse to do both at the same time, I’m all over it!

Here’s what the PGA had to say about their new partner: Chalone Vineyard’s proud tradition of providing quality wines to customers, and committed interest in the golf industry, make a wonderful addition to The PGA of America’s valued family of partners,” said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski. “We are proud to have Chalone Vineyard as the Official Wine of The PGA of America and join us in celebrating our 95th year in golf.”

And here’s what the Chalone folks say: “I am absolutely delighted to be working with The PGA of America to increase the enjoyment of wine along with the great game of golf,” says Chalone Vineyard winemaker Robert Cook. “I have been an avid golfer since I could hold a club, and this alliance gives me the chance to discuss how the excellent wines we make can be an inspired beverage choice for the “19th hole” – a terrific way to combine two of my passions.”

Ah, I think I get it. Chalone’s Robert Cook engineered this whole thing so he could get inside access to golf and golfers. Good idea: I wish I’d thought of it first. The closest I come to pairing wine and golf is when I’m playing really badly and say, “What the heck, I can’t get any worse. Send the drink cart out with a glass of Chardonnay.”

But don’t get me wrong: Chalone does make very good wines, and in several price tiers so they can be accessible to nearly everyone. They specialize in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, two grapes that grow particularly well in the cooler climate of their appellation near Monterey.

Hey, wait a minute — the PGA at this very minute is playing its weekly tournament in Carmel, just a stone’s throw from Monterey. I’m sure the Chalone folks are there at Pebble Beach, soaking up the fabulous views of rocks and waves while the golfers fight it out on the immaculate fairways and greens. And then they’ll all go off to the clubhouse and start sipping Chalone Pinot.

Wish I was there… Cheers!

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Three Blind Mice and Red Wine

miceThey’re at it again: feeding perfectly good wine to laboratory mice in the interest of Science. While I question whether this is a good use of something I could be drinking, I’m all for Advancing Human Knowledge, if that means finding yet another reason for everyone to drink wine.

I wrote a story a few months ago (“Are You a Man(Woman) or a Mouse”) about a study that used mice to research the effects of resveratrol, a substance that occurs in the skins and seeds of red wine grapes and therefore in red wine. Now, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri have reported the results of another mouse study. I’ll call it the Mighty Mouse study, because the results are indeed important.

Here’s what the university’s press release said: “The investigators studied mice that develop abnormal blood vessels in the retina after laser treatment. Apte’s team found that when the mice were given resveratrol, the abnormal blood vessels began to disappear.” In short, “Resveratrol…stops out-of-control blood vessel growth in the eye.”

That’s a good thing, because “The discovery has implications for preserving vision in blinding eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in Americans over 50.”

Wow! That means that we should drink red wine so we can continue to see clearly. But not too much, because we all know that over-indulging in red wine or any other alcohol is the primary cause of slobbering drunkenness, which is not only unattractive but definitely impedes the vision.

So think of red wine as just another vitamin supplement: it’s just a lot more fun to swallow. Cheers!

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The Wine Lady’s Wine Survival Training: Ordering Wine in a Restaurant

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The Wine Lady’s Wine Survival Training:Navigating a Restaurant Wine List

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