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Just the Wine Rating, Please:  Early April Fool’s Day

I think WineX magazine, a wine rag with waning influence that publishes maddeningly infrequently and has absolutely no focus or clear audience save for perhaps a long in the tooth 37 year old hipster in West Hollywood, dropped an early April Fool’s Day joke this year.

WineX Magazine has launched a new portion of their web site called “Just Wine Points.”

Seriously, this is one of the moments where you’re not sure whether you’re a part of some elaborate ruse, or if this is for real. 

The blurb from the site goes:

justwinepoints represents 20 years of research into why and how wine aficionados purchase wine. After examining and categorizing our data, we believe this site presents wine reviews exactly the way wine savvy consumers want them – by the numbers and numbers only.

With the homogenization of wines over the past 20 years, along with the wine industry’s over-zealous use of oak to mask wine’s attributes, justwinepoints cuts to the chase and offers exactly what the wine savvy consumer wants – a numerical score without all of the flowery baggage (descriptors). Let’s face the facts: The sophistication level of a wine consumer who uses the 100-point scale far exceeds that of the average, uninitiated layman. The savvy wine aficionado understands attributes associated with different wine styles, varietals and regions. They understand about aging young wine and the influences brought about by proper cellaring. The savvy wine consumer knows that pairing wine with food is a subjective preference, so someone else’s opinion is basically worthless. Thus, descriptors and any baggage glommed-on to rating points is wasted time and effort by both reviewer and reader.

So use justwinepoints to find the highest-rated wine without any distractions. Use this site to cut through the clutter of magazines and newsletters that spew descriptors as if someone will actually use them. Use justwinepoints to find that near-perfect wine before someone else does… or you may be compromised to drinking sub-90s wines.

Um, I don’t even know where to begin.  Let’s assume that this is for real and that they are completely serious about just providing wine scores for discriminating buyers who hunt wines by numerical value.  The point they are missing is that points are given valid context because, as in the case of Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate, a consumer has come to trust their reputation for wine knowledge and expertise thereby creating credibility.  Maybe they’ve heard of a little phenomenon called “Parker’s Palate.”  If Robert Parker was ‘Bob the Staff Accountant from Baltimore’ why the hell would anybody trust his opinion?

What they fail to realize in reviewing their “20 years of research into why and how wine aficionados purchase wine” is that points don’t mean anything without respected opinion and that’s the one thing WineX has lost with their inability to publish a magazine with any timely consistency that hits any semblance of a coherent target audience.

Just Wine Points just might win bad idea of the decade.


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Happy 1st Birthday to Good Grape!

A little navel gazing for the year that was … I officially launched Good Grape on January 24, 2006.

It has been quite a year—from doing cobbled together cartoons (that will re-emerge sometime soon in a professional format), to writing around the Cluetrain Manifesto (I got stuck on #8 and plan to pick it up this year), writing for Wine Sediments for a few months to earn enough money to buy not one, but three lattes, to accepting a killer position with wine technology company Inertia Beverage Group, to redesigning Good Grape, to being nominated for the American Blog Awards, it’s been a fun ride that has created opportunities that I never would have imagined just 13 months ago.  That’s the power of blogging, even if it is sometimes slow to the point and verbose here at Good Grape.  I started this site with the premise that it would be an outlet for ideas—taking seemingly disparate notions and weaving it into something that contextually has application to my wine passion and, perhaps, the industry. 

Fittingly, I launched with the below Good Grape 10 commandments. These kind of hold up, as well. Though, I have gained more wine wisdom in the past 12 months then the previous 10 years combined.

The Good Grape Commandments
10) Wine is regional & historical
9) Pity the wine snob
8) Taste is relative
7) Quality is not proportional to price
6) 100 point rating systems are subjective
5) Enjoyment of life & wine is a function of time, place and company
4) Every wine and winery has a story
3) If you can’t go to the winery, let the winery come to you
2) Life is measured by experiences
1) Drink. Taste. Celebrate the Good Grape!

Thanks for checking me out on occasion and thanks, especially, for the inspiration that I have taken from fellow wine bloggers and those passionate about the Good Grape.


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Our Journey Together Begins…

Greetings Good Grape readers, this is Tim Elliott of Winecast with the first of my weekly posts here.  Jeff, the proprietor and chief bottle washer of this blog, has asked me to write posts here in place of the personal blog feed I donated to the Menu for Hope campaign. More than $60,000 was raised for the UN Food Programme and Jeff was the lucky winner of my donation.

Let me start by giving you a bit of background about me and my wine blog and podcast. Like many wine geeks, my introduction to the fruit of the vine was through jug wines. While in college in Northern California, I developed a taste for wine so I’d pick up one of those 3 liter jugs of Gallo Hearty Burgundy every couple of weeks for around $8 (this was back in the early 1980’s). As I got more into wine, partially via trips through Napa Valley, I wanted to discover new tastes so I picked up bottles from Wente Brothers, Mirassou, Jekel and Sebastiani. I soon developed a preference for Zinfandel and discovered the wines of Ridge Vineyard (particularly their Sonoma Geyserville bottling) and the Lytton Springs Winery (today, Ridge Lytton Springs). My house Zin was from Sebastiani that I bought for $2.50 a bottle.

Once I graduated college and made my way into the working world, I started to drink more expensive wines but mostly stayed with wines from my native state of California. The closest I came to a “transcendent wine moment” came when I noticed a 1974 Heitz “Martha’s Vineyard” Cabernet by the glass at a restaurant in 1986. At about $20 for a 3 oz. pour it wasn’t cheap, but it did put me firmly on the path to wine geekdom.

In September of 2004, I discovered podcasting—audio programs made by individuals and syndicated via the internet—and Winecast was born soon thereafter. Since us podcasters use blog software to deliver our shows, within a few short weeks I also became a wine blogger. Over the past 2+ years, I have produced almost 80 podcasts and reviewed hundreds of wines.

Enough about me; let’s get to what I will be writing about… Jeff and I have agreed that my posts here on Good Grape will fall within 3 categories:

Web 2.0 and Wine - One of my passions is the internet and Web 2.0 has slowly made it’s way into the wine world. As this evolved last year I began to blog about it at Winecast. Some of those ideas will make their way into my posts here, as well.

The Wines of Italy - Both Jeff and I love Italian wines but don’t know too much about the subject. That’s going to change over the next year as I go deep into the country’s wines and history of viticulture. Although I will cover well known regions like Tuscany and Piedmont, I will try to spend most of my time on less popular areas of the country looking for values and memorable wines to sample.

Wine Marketing - I have been doing marketing consulting with wineries for the past year and will blog about this subject here. My preference is for internet marketing and integrating social media into the wine context, but I’ll also spend time on some of the more traditional methods, too. You can expect somewhat of a revival of the Cluetrain Manifesto inspired posts Jeff blogged about last year.

So that’s the plan; my posts will go up on Sunday evenings starting next week. I’m excited to get this train out of the station… join us for the journey!


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In Pursuit of Elusive Biodynamic Wines

I guess I’m not too different from any number of millions of people that set New Year’s resolutions for themselves and then proceed to not heed the call of the gym, forsake dessert, and let lapse the desire to reconnect with the friend from high school that you haven’t talked to in 20 years.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to be a part of Wine Blogging Wednesday every month this year.  #1, I think it’s a great learning opportunity to share with your blogging peers, #2 It drives you into wine drinking areas that you may not have previously considered and #3 It’s fun

Alas, I missed my first Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW) this month, Wednesday, January 17th, and I’m a little bummed because it was related to Biodynamic wines—an area that I also set a resolution to learn more about in the coming year. 

One of the significant challenges I had with the BioD selection is pure availability of wine—there are not too many producers doing the clearly disciplined BioD farming, a subset of those that farm organically, which is already a small selection out of the total amount of available wine and producers. 

Earlier this month, at a Sunflower Market, which is something like a Wild Oats, or a Whole Foods Market, I picked up the Bonterra Syrah—not BioD, but certified organic.  I figured Bonterra would be an interesting juxtaposition to BioD given Bonterra’s leadership role in organic and sustainable farming.  In fact, I think they are converting some vineyards to BioD, as well, though the Syrah I selected was regulated under the certified organic foods act in California, 1990 and not approved by the Demeter Association, the BioD approving body.  My post would then, therefore, be about the difficulty in locating BioD wines and an interesting tasting about wineries that operate in the organic domain—a net that is cast a bit wider than the quirky BioD.

Then, I was talking with a fellow wine blogger and mentioned the certified organic and he said, “Dude, it’s Biodynamics this month for WBW, not Organic.”  Ah, details, details … Well, yeah, but maybe I can cheat a little bit …

Therefore swayed and not happy then with my initial wine choice, I went to one of the best wine shops in the city and they had one Biodynamic wine—a Sineann Pinot Noir that was $40 + a bottle and to boot, I had already tasted it at a tasting and found it interesting (lively even), but I was hoping to branch out in a different direction instead of plowing the same earth, so to speak.  Plus, I really have to pick and choose my spots regarding impulse buying of $40 wines given that Mrs. Good Grape keeps an eye on the cellar and the checkbook.

Two trips searching for a BioD, I decided to scrap it—I could, ahem, always write an ipso facto post … related to BioD.

So, I guess this is something of a problem with the BioD wines—you really have to search them out.  A quick scan of the wine posts at Fork & Bottle, the hosts for this months edition, and I think scarcity is proven as it’s a diverse lineup of wines, many of them foreign producers.  Dr. Vino, though, did, in fact, taste and write about the Sineann Pinot from Resonance Vineyards that I had tasted at a separate function in November.

My overall take on BioD, given my limited tasting, is that there is something lively and refreshing about it—it’s the difference between drinking water and Gatorade to me.  If I’m thirty, I really like both, but water is fresh, lively and invigorating while Gatorade is the same, but it’s more viscous, more overt, touched by the hand of man, perhaps.

I’ll continue the learning curve on BioD, for sure.  In the meantime, I urge you to check out the posting reviews for this months WBW at Fork & Bottle—I think many people had some interesting discoveries around the freshness of these wines. 


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Go Colts:  Indiana Alumni in the World of Wine

As an Indiana native and a resident of Indianapolis for going on 12 years I’m something of a Colts fan, albeit a secondary fan to my first passion, Notre Dame Football.  Nonetheless, a hearty ‘Go Blue’ frequently passes my lips and I certainly appreciate the richness an NFL team adds to our city tapestry. 

I was pleasantly surprised today when I browsed a local wine shop and found something of a Colts branded wine from Oregon.

Joining Jason Goelz from Sapid Wines and David Cronin from Beuhler Vineyards as Indiana wine expatriates, is apparently, the founder of Cherry Hill Winery in Oregon, Michael Sweeney.

I found this out when making a jaunt into a local wine shop today where they were doing a tasting for a 2005 Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley called, “Kickin’ Ass Colt Cuvée” replete with a blue colt on the simple but attractive label. 
I initially thought the wine might be marketing schtick where a winery was doing local geography private label wines for NFL teams—not a bad idea, actually.  As I slurped the sample of the Pinot, which is a little green and underripe, I learned that the owner of the winery is an Indianapolis native.  Cool.  I picked up a bottle; at $15.99 it’s not a wine that’s gonna knock your socks off, but I figured the novelty factor was worth it on the eve of one of the biggest games of the modern era for the Colts coupled with the fact that I like supporting a winery that has roots in Indy with enough marketing moxie to do a “Kickin’ Ass Colts Cuvée.”

Cherry Hill Winery, a relatively young winery, purchased their parcel of land from William Hill, a Napa legend who had purchased in the Willamette Valley in the 90s (Excerpt from their Web site):

Hill’s special facility with hillside sites is famous: he developed Atlas Peak, Diamond Mountain Ranch, Mount Veeder and other distinctive appellations in the Napa region.

That same ‘nose for slopes’ led him to the Eola Hills.  The undeveloped rural district had all the right ingredients for world-class pinot noir: the right cool climate, southwestern slopes, elevations between 250-500 feet, and the essential rich, well-drained Jory soils. He divided the property into three separate parcels, all of which are now planted to pinot noir and one of which was purchased in 1998 by our own Mike Sweeney.

One of the things I like about a lot of Pinot Noir from Oregon is there is a purity of spirit with the winemakers, most of whom strive for a burgundian style and a terroir-based expression of fruit.  While the Colt Cuvee is second-label/bulk quality there is still a lot to be said for the vino coming from an Indianapolis fella and a place with some passion and some soul. 

The wine isn’t available online, probably something of a Central Indiana exclusive, but you can order the rest of their wine lineup online at their site www.cherryhillwinery.com  Cheers to an Indianapolis native son, and “Go Blue.”


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