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August 31 2007
Let me paint a quick picture for you … while my wife and I were on vacation in June, in California, in a 23 ft. rented RV, with our dog, a Pug/Beagle mix, cover girl for the book Mixed Breeds for Dummies, we took a hot lap through Napa on our way to Bothe State Park to camp for a night, before heading over to Yosemite National Park.
In order to get provisions for the evening we needed to stop at Dean & Deluca on Hwy 29 in Napa Valley. This is how I roll when I camp—RV and cheese and crackers, tough guy that I am. Unfortunately, on any given Saturday the Dean & Deluca parking lot is jam packed, and particularly jam packed for a 23 foot RV.
However, and most fortuitously, the Flora Springs tasting room across the parking lot was not packed. So, I dropped my wife off at the door of Dean & Deluca and parked the RV lengthwise across four parking spots in front of the Flora Springs tasting room. My big ass rented RV was simultaneously causing a mini-eclipse while reflecting a shadowed pallor in the large, glass picture window of their tastefully modest retail storefront tasting room. I get out of the RV wearing shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops, with a days beard growth and four heads on a swivel, Flora Springs’ employees, look at me through the tasting room window like I’m either Satan’s spawn or Cousin Eddie.
At that point, I was going to leave our dog in the running RV with A/C while I joined my wife to shop for a couple of minutes. She always gets mild cheeses and I wanted to get a stinky gorgonzola with some honey. Based on the angle and arch of the eyebrows of the faces in the windows of the Flora Springs tasting room, I quickly re-thought that strategy and figured a tasting in the lovely Flora Springs tasting room was a darn good idea. I dutifully paid my tasting fee, which was credited towards purchase, if I recall correctly, and did a fly through tasting while my dog looked forlornly out the front seat window.
Given a choice of heaping scorn and being the story at the end of the day as an example of the unwashed masses OR essentially paying a parking fee in the form of a tithe to the church of wine at Flora Springs, I chose the latter and the ’05 Sauvignon Blanc. A pretty good wine, and one I won’t soon forget. Thankfully I did buy the bottle and didn’t need to peel out of their parking lot disgracefully because well ... Total tasting room time coupled with Dean & Deluca shopping time 17 minutes. Total waiting time to turn left onto Hwy 29 at 3:00 in the afternoon on a Saturday: 19 minutes.
This is a nice wine and my review can be viewed here:
August 31 2007
I ran across an interesting article on personalities matched to munchies—taking psychoanalysis to new heights. I would suggest that somebody should come up with the eHarmony personality profile for wine lovers, but I think somebody already beat me to the punch. Thankfully, I’m already married, so my wife would just call me a mixed bag of snacks while she’s pretty much a pretzel. Just to keep things on the wine up and up, I’ve included wine pairing suggestions. Which munchie are you? Excerpted from Utne Reader, September ‘07 who Excerpted from Alternative Medicine, May ’07.
Tortilla Chips: You’re a perfectionist. You’re successful and ambitious, and you like to plan ahead. You have a strong sense of social responsibility and abhor injustice.
Wine Pairing: California Sauvignon Blanc/Fume Blanc
Pretzels: You’re the life of the party. You love novelty and can quickly become bored with routine. You tend to start new projects before completing existing ones.
Wine Pairing: Off-dry Lambrusco
Cheese Curls: You have a high sense of morals and ethics and insist upon treating everyone fairly. You might seem uptight, but you’re highly organized and methodical
Wine Pairing: Australian Shiraz
Popcorn: You’re a take-charge type, but with a modest low-key demeanor. Confident but reserved, you would make a large charitable donation without telling anyone
Wine Pairing: Chardonnay
Nuts: You’re even-tempered, easy to get along with, and highly empathetic. Your easy-going, cooperative nature contributes to success at home and at work
Wine Pairing: Ripe, California Pinot
Potato chips: You’re achievement-oriented, successful and competitive. You’re a natural leader but can be irritated with inconveniences like long lines and traffic jams
Wine Pairing: Verdehlo or Gruner Veltliner or Champagne
Crackers: You’re contemplative, thoughtful and often a loner. You prefer private time and shy away from confrontation and arguments; you can’t stand to hurt another person’s feelings
Wine Pairing: Rose
Meat snacks (salumi/jerky): You’re gregarious and generous, and you tend to be loyal to a fault.
Wine Pairing: Medium bodied Cabernet or Zinfandel
Please leave a comment and tell me which snack YOU are.
August 30 2007
Some people are born on third base and think they hit a triple. In terms of my wine life here in Indiana, I sometimes feel like I bunted and legged out a single. But, no longer. A little ditty from my man Van Morrison … apropos to today …
When all the dark clouds roll away
And the sun begins to shine
I see my freedom from across the way
And it comes right in on time Well it shines so bright and it gives so much light
And it comes from the sky above
Makes me feel so free makes me feel like me
And lights my life with love
And it seems like and it feels like
And it seems like yes it feels like
A brand new day, yeah
A brand new day oh
I was lost and double crossed
With my hands behind my back
I was longtime hurt and thrown in the dirt
Shoved out on the railroad track
Ive been used, abused and so confused
And I had nowhere to run
But I stood and looked
And my eyes got hooked
On that beautiful morning sun
And the sun shines down all on the ground
Yeah and the grass is oh so green
And my heart is still and Ive got the will
And I dont really feel so mean
Here it comes, here it comes
0 here it comes right now
And it comes right in on time
Well it eases me and it pleases me
And it satisfies my mind
Why the joyfulness and bounce in my step? As reported by Tom from Fermentation, (who beat at least two major local news outlets to the punch, by the way) and numerous other local news outlets, Indiana is now opening up to winery consumer direct shipping. Doubtlessly, this will be challenged, but it’s a major step in the right direction to allow winery shipping to consumers, overturning the previous idiotic law put in place post-Granholm that said that a person could have wine shipped to him/her so long as he signed a waiver in-person at the winery. The only winery that I’ve ever talked to outside of Indiana that actually understood this was V. Sattui and that was actually just this past weekend.
Buying wine online from boutique wineries, wine club shipments … ah the possibilities … just like normal people …
Yes, it’s a Brand New Day for wine lovers in the great state of Indiana—we’ve never, ever had this access and in the words of my man Van, the “dark clouds roll away.”
August 30 2007
Flemings Steakhouse, a chain, with locations in 26 states, whose marketing value proposition is an extensive wine by the glass program, recently announced their “Flemings 100” list—wines made available by the glass; 60 of which are chosen at a corporate level and the balance is buyer discretion on a regional level.
Now, Flemings makes a big deal out of this list and its annual maintenance with national advertising in the wine mags. and some consumer engagement in the selection process, etc. But, a glance at the actual list is enough to invite some questions. Presumably, they are going after the knowledgeable wine consumer with some little found gems that indicate “discovery.”
Not so much.
Their marketing copy says:
“A full half of the wines are from family-owned vineyards. Though harder to procure, these “boutique” wines are worth the effort because their exceptionally high quality.”
Consider when you open this link, that the very first page features Beringer White Zinfandel. The next 6 pages are, to their credit, lesser known imports (save for the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc), but then we get to page 18 and the Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve. We then meander our way through Cambria, Montevina, Dry Creek, Clos Du Bois and other nationally distributed brands. Perhaps some are family-owned, but “boutique” might be stretching it a bit.
I think I understand the difficulty in buying wine for a national program and a restaurant group that probably does a lot of volume—it is seemingly a difficult balance between quality, marketing and enough production, but to entice somebody that really knows a little something about wine, shouldn’t you veer deeper off the beaten path? And, does an $8 glass of K-J Chard, when you know you can buy the bottle at your grocery store for $13.99, really do that?
Bon Vivant PhD
It has dawned on me that, if independently wealthy, I would not choose to first travel the world (though I would do that, too), nor would I start my own business (though, that would be a priority, as well) instead I think I would work on a self-developed PhD in being a Bon Vivant. Living in a college town and going to school is pretty good fun in my book. After getting my Master of Wine, or a similar certification I might choose to Boston University Metropolitan College for a Masters in Gastronomy. From the course catalog:
The Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) in Gastronomy encompasses the arts, the humanities, and the natural and social sciences. As the study of food, food science, and nutrition has grown, a consensus has developed that the study of food and wine, under the category of gastronomy, requires a multidisciplinary approach. Our understanding of the role of food in historical and contemporary societies and its impact on world civilization is a serious and important pursuit, especially when undertaken within specific, well-defined fields of study such as culinary history, anthropology, archaeology, economics, and nutrition.
If I didn’t choose this program, perhaps Le Cordon Bleu’s program would be more suitable:
The Le Cordon Bleu Master of Arts in Gastronomy is one of the few programs in the world leading to an advanced degree in gastronomic studies. The program is built on a series of articulated courses, and is designed in the early stages to provide a general appreciation of the history and culture of food and drink from ancient times, with a strong focus on contemporary themes. Students then go on to research their own area of interest in the field of Gastronomy. Students established in a gastronomy-related career, such as a restaurateur, wine importer, or a food or drink journalist, will find that the program in Gastronomy a pathway to professional advancement.
If you combine that with a Masters in Sustainable Management, you might have a very unique and desirable skill-set.
Likewise, if I was independently wealthy—neo-rich—I’d probably have to find a more suitable place for a growing wine collection …
Does it get any more ostentatious then a walk-in wine vault? Suddenly, the $4000 Viking range seems so déclassé. So damned expensive you can’t find the price on the Internet, GE’s Monogram series has an all-in-one wine vault with inventory management system, attractive racking and cooling in a package that takes as little as a day to install.
Two sides of the viticultural Coin
For a really good, high-level article juxtaposing BioD and traditional grape-growing, check out this article from the Washington Post.
In my opinion, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that growing organic and BioD might mentally get painted with “boutique” wines in the consumer’s minds-eye. It may be that a small producer almost has to change their growing practices or do marketing around it based on the explosion of organically grown grapes making their way into the fine wine market.
August 27 2007
If you asked a complete wine layperson to build a U.S. winery brand image, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t look too different from Dry Creek Vineyard.
Unquestionably one of my favorite wineries and one of the best tasting room experiences I’ve had, Dry Creek just seems to get everything right—the back story, the beautifully bucolic setting and the customer-facing packaging, with a refined elegance. The wine is pretty good, too and mostly at accessible price points—a fact that shouldn’t be neglected when you consider that at the ripe age of 35 years old, many other wineries started in that time period have long gone up-market to cash in on cachet.
If you have 3 minutes, download and view their slide presentation (found here) which takes you through the early days of the winery and through the seasons into harvest. It’s a nice powerpoint presentation and a nice touch—something you don’t always see from winery marketing folks.
The ’05 Dry Creek Vineyard Heritage Zinfandel is a quality wine at price point—under $15, depending on where you buy it. It’s well made and demonstrates a restraint not often seen from wineries whose calling card is Zinfandel. I’d like to see it with a touch more acidity to help it cross the chasm to being a food wine, particularly because it’s not made in the fruit overload Zin style, but, overall, your ducats will be well spent.
My review and tasting notes can be found here.