How the sweet red wine trend sent me off my rocker.
It’s the fall wine-tasting season and after sampling a thousand wines over the past month I’m left with the uneasy feeling that I may be suffering from old-timer’s disease. The symptoms include difficulty understanding why red wines are getting sweeter, confusion about labels that look like gothic murder scenes, and appalling marksmanship around the spit bucket. I think there might also be something about forgetfulness.
You may be thinking, “Aw fiddlesticks! Tasting wine doesn’t make you feel old.”
Just as sure as eggs is eggs there’s a chasm forming in the bedrock of wines priced under $20 that make us prellennials scratch our balding heads and wonder what in tarnation is going on. I feel old because by golly, I can remember back in the day when wines were dry!Read More
Gloria Steinem wrote, “More reliably than anything else on earth, the road will force you to live in the present.”
Oddly enough, Ms. Steinem’s words inspired me to revisit the past. This is a tale about life on the road – a passion I discovered long before wine but found no less intoxicating.
It’s not like I thought I was going to die.
My canteen had run dry the previous day, the last of my granola two days before that. I desperately missed the water, the granola not so much. Sure, I was in a desert without food and water, dehydrated, exhausted, a Barry Manilow tune stuck in my head, but I didn’t think it would kill me. I only hoped it would.Read More
New Jersey summers are spent ‘down the shore.’ Every year my family heads south to read books on the beach, create music on the deck, and paint. Over the course of our vacation the growing collection of watercolor paintings, almost exclusively seascapes, flowers and lighthouses, compete for a coveted spot on the refrigerator door.
My wife Caroline brings her favorite watercolor books for inspiration and for the last few years that has included Margrit Mondavi’s Sketchbook, Reflections on Wine, Food, Art, Family, Romance, and Life. Caroline owns two copies of Margrit’s autobiography. The first copy, dog-eared, sand filled and paint spattered, comes with us to the beach. The second copy, pristine and autographed, is kept safely tucked away at home and in Caroline’s heart.Read More
So you think 2016 has been a bizarre year? In 2006 the Vice President shot his friend in the face with a shotgun and Sacha Baron Cohen won a Golden Globe Best Actor award for his portrayal of Borat. But hey, the news wasn’t all bad in 2006. I was ten years younger, my friends had never heard of obstructive sleep apnea, and the world was still blissfully unaware of Justin Bieber.
In California the wine trade was schizophrenically trying to evaluate the 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. Wine historian Jancis Robinson called 2006, “Far from a banner year”¹ while Bo Barrett, winemaker for Chateau Montelena, told the Napa Valley Vintners, “It should be a bitchin’ vintage!”²
Suspecting the facts would fall somewhere in the middle, WineSnark canvassed some politicians to find out the truth.
Ha ha ha ha!Read More
Napa Valley has proven time and again that when it comes to Cabernet Sauvignon (and its half-sibling Meritage), it is capable of producing some of the world’s most jaw-dropping, heart-thumping, and awe-inspiring interpretations of this celebrated variety. Napa Valley Cabernet’s most provincial quality, some might argue its finest quality, is its graceful power. Not its significant weight and texture- which can present itself like a sumo wrestler in a silk robe, nor its lumbering relationship with oak – which has been known to make termites weep with joy, not even its bold concentration, although it can offer palette-crushing substance. No, the reason we celebrate Napa Valley Cabernet is the same reason we embrace Olympic Rugby but not Olympic Badminton. It’s the reason we love Star Wars, Stephen King, NASCAR, and ribeye with the bone in.Read More
Chapter Sixteen. Part Seven.
After the French Revolution, the vast vineyards of Burgundy – properties that had been controlled by nobility and by the Catholic Church since the middle ages – were confiscated by the state and auctioned off to local farmers and tradesmen. The Napoleonic code also put an end to primogeniture. It’s worth pointing out that Napoleon was referring to primogeniture, the practice of leaving ones entire estate to the eldest child, and not the Italian porn star Primo Geniture.
The abolition of primogeniture meant that an estate would henceforth be divided between all of the rightful offspring, even the ones who never called home on their parent’s birthdays.Read More
Chapter Sixteen. Part Eight.
Real Conversation Overheard in a Fine Wine Store:
CUSTOMER: Can you recommend a Chardonnay to go with pan-seared scallops?
ME: I highly recommend this Pouilly-Fuissé from Burgundy.
CUSTOMER: But I asked for Chardonnay.
ME: Yes, white Burgundy is made from Chardonnay.
CUSTOMER: White Burgundy? I thought you were a wine expert. Everybody knows Burgundy is red. Why do you think it’s called Burgundy?
As the customer turned to leave it dawned on me that in many circles Burgundy is synonymous with world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and in other circles people are a stupid pain in the ass.
It’s understandable that most Americans don’t know what’s inside a Burgundy bottle because so many things bear the Burgundy name. First there’s the place Burgundy, then there’s the wine Burgundy, of course there’s the color Burgundy, and most famously there’s anchorman Ron Burgundy.Read More
Chapter Sixteen. Part Five.
California winemakers like to imitate the French. No, they’re not on strike. In an attempt to mimic the classic wines of Bordeaux, they often blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec (the main varieties found in red Bordeaux wine), then they take a 3-hour lunch and go on strike.
Hey, I’m kidding. It’s what I do. I poke fun at my friends which probably explains why my Facebook page only has unfriend and unlike buttons. Seriously, many of these Bordeaux imitations are very elegant, feminine wines – in an unshaven sort of way.Read More
Everybody does it the first time. You pick up a bottle of Pinot Noir from Willamette, Oregon and the little voice in your head says, “That’s pronounced WILLA-met”. Years later you find yourself at a wine tasting and you tell a winemaker, “I’m a big fan of WILLA-met wines’. He rolls his eyes and says, “It’s pronounced will-AM-et, dammit.”
Get it? “will-AM-et, dammit” is a mnemonic device. No, not an iron lung, that’s a pneumonic device. It’s not an air compressor either, that’s a pneumatic device. A mnemonic device helps you remember things. For example, spring forward, fall back is a mnemonic device that helps you remember what to do at the beginning and end of a wine tasting.Read More
In the aftermath of Auction Napa Valley’s annual charitable fundraiser it’s clear that those in the wine industry are seriously invested in helping their fellow man. Some in the trade go further than others in their mission to make the world a better place for our children, in their quest to preserve our precious natural resources, or in their resounding commitment to save the world from cow flatulence.
There are many serious threats to the future of mankind and paramount among these are global warming, worldwide pandemic and insipid Pinot Grigio. While the wine industry is powerless in the fight against frightening new diseases and wishy-washy wine, there are some winemakers who are partnering with agricultural concerns to combat global warming.Read More