GoodGrape
Home Wine News Articles Shop for Wine Accessories About Links Downloads Contact

Good Grape Wine Company

Left side of the header
Right side of the header

Browse by Tag

good grape daily: pomace & lees free run: field notes from a wine life around the wine blogosphere wine: a business doing pleasure good grape wine reviews new world influences red wine wine white wine wine blog news robert parker wine bloggers notes & dusty bottle items wine sediments wine business wine blogs historical wine book excerpts tasting safari: wines you can buy online cluetrain manifesto revisited winecast: a year in collaboration wine spectator wine blogger robert mondavi wine marketing indy food & wine vin de napkin vinography dr. vino appellation watch: midwest regional review new vine logistics alice feiring wine blogging luxury wine tom wark natural wine gary vaynerchuk wine critics american wine blog awards wine reviews cameron hughes wine books wine writers biodynamic wine best wine bloggers a really goode job california wine robert mondavi day robert mondavi winery fermentation blog penner-ash wine research wine ratings fred franzia tyler colman steve heimoff oregon pinot noir wall street journal wine best wine blogs murphy-goode winery direct-to-trade stormhoek inertia beverage group wine technology notre dame football bordeaux wine enthusiast sparkling wine wine and the economy wine distribution terry theise wine.com biodynamics allocated wine reading between the wines wine news inniskillin hr 5034 oregon bounty rodney strong the wine makers tv oregon cuisinternship wine advertising wine review jim laube wine ethics three dolla koala sonoma pinot noir appellation america gourmet magazine open that bottle night zinfandel rockaway wine market council wine online winery marketing wine trends lynn penner-ash wine advocate sommelier journal hugh macleod rockaway vineyards good grape augmented reality pinot noir cellartracker dan berger crushpad wine amazon.com southern wine & spirits 100-pt scale grape stories mike steinberger church wine wine & spirits magazine wine tasting notes vintank silver oak trader joe's wine wine and spirits daily champagne indiana wine matt kramer slender wine judd's hill rose wine recession wine wine & spirits daily firestone vineyards wine trivia robert parker's bitch eryn supple the grateful palate heidi barrett john james dufour america eats willamette valley wines of chile specialty wine retailers association american wine blogs forty-five north winery wine press release hong kong u.s. wine 2006 hess collection monterey chardonnay adler fels wines & vines kelly fleming interview the pour oregon food and wine dan cederquist parks and recreation wine umami swanson alexis cabernet disney wine program value wines brand butlers inexpensive wine jay miller keep walking wines that rock steve perry aussie wine glut clary ranch pinot noir john tyler wine wine economy mary ewing-mulligan non-profits and wine ebob bodeans mitch schwartz hourglass cabernet italian wine merchant dependable wine sutter home videos aspirational marketing clark smith wine book publishing russian river valley ani difranco peru wine trip barbaresco michael steinberger value wine jamie oliver paul blart: mall cop phillip armenier red bicyclette pinot noir wine blogosphere ge smart grid augmented reality trefethen family vineyards california zinfandel wineshopper australian wine vinexpo jay mcinerney the gaslight anthem the pioneer woman james laube sylvester pinot noir goodguide korbel wine blobbers oregon travel tokalon winery not-for-profit jess jackson massale selection wine & spirits magazines kenny shopsin next generation apple the psychology of wine the vintners art cork'd 2008 vina mar reserva sauvignon blanc randy caparoso wine + music midwest wine culture chimney rock elevage cornell enology wine tycoon game stavin kelly fleming national wine & spirits kurt andersen " "new world wine" poseurs macari vineyards sette 7 swanson vineyards sunbox eleven wine winery sponsorship champagne sales wine criticism 2009 auction napa valley sonoma county wine wipes san francisco wine competition clary ranch tim hanni hunningbird wine beaux freres jon bonne the wine case climber white agency nil charlie weis sugar free wine a very goode job 2007 sean minor four bears pinot noir trefethen generation y and wine purpose-idea rose wine sales vincellar dominic foppoli discoveries pathfinder wine bar bets the winemakers tv australia wine fantesca judgment of paris women in wine oregon pinot gris three-tier carmenere wine heist winery hospitality 2007 forty-five north cabernet franc alpine for dummies 2008 honig sauvignon blanc 1% for the planet wine industry news negociant wine business monthly 2008 food & wine winemaker of the year eric asimov travel oregon jordan winery amy poehler wine micro sites umami chris phelps vegas wine qpr wines jimmy clausen cheap wine wine bard weds wine dj journey three dollar koala pinot noir reviews chronicle wine ed mccarthy wine to relax erobertparker little zagreb wine magazines howard schultz paul mabray wine blogging ethics youtube natural winemaking wine content klinker brick maria thun bad wine mumm napa slate wine columnist wine pricing wine blog awards 2010 bottle shock movie sketches of spain red bicyclette court paul gregutt trefethen oak knoll cabernet sauvignon zinfandel reviews tasting note desciptors wine purchasing wine nose good wine under 20 the hold steady paste magazine sensory evaluation petite sirah wine points the press-democrat oregon cuisinternship winner blog contests preakness stakes pork tenderloins wine & spirits restaurant poll 2010 eat me kenny shopsin amazon kindle wine politics what is terroir a history of wine words marco capelli music + wine indianapolis patz & hall sonoma coast pinot noir notes on a cellar book wine tycoon video game oak alternatives cabernet bottle shock economy chronicle wines vignoles wine columns mirror wine joe roberts e-myth revisited bennett lane winery champagne and business napa valley auction sonoma county wine french wine marketing vino chapeau wine medal winners petaluma pinot wine industry zap wine jr. san francisco chronicle wine ice wine c.g. di arie radiohead doubleback wine chateau thomas wine parker defamation blackstone wine trefethen fallow obama gapingvoid rose summer wine corkd foppoli wines tamari torrontes dirty south wine firestone contest doug frost whuffie factor wine reality show wine label design duane hoff resveratrol woman in wine organic wineries oregon wine snobs wine is the new black expensive wine will hoge wine spies conundrum winery customer service julie and julia texas for dummies wine collection shorttrack ceo vintage of the decade markham mark of distinction sonoma wine company spike your juice celia masyczek jim koch pinot main street winery obama wine digital signage wine retail the fifth taste dominus bellagio wine the wine blue book good wine livingston cellars persimmon creek vineyards liberty school cabernet sauvignon german wine oh westside road scott becker randall grahm party of five theme song wine spectator restaurant awards zig ziglar drvino.com wine direct shipping wine humor altar wine steroids in baseball publishing trends wine laws biodynamic wine health research 2007 waters crest "night watch" late harvest wine clif bar wine cheap wines rick mirer indiana miss america lewis perdue pbs john trefethen elliot essman wine intelligence research millenials and wine penner ash deb harkness cowboy mouth wine evaluation dark & delicious biod alpana singh dos equis commercials wine and sense of smell tim mondavi rachel alexandra 500 things to eat before it's too late wine & spirits guinness beer 2006 brancott pinot noir wine public relations facebook + wine wine 2.0 schotts micellany hugh johnson alloutwine cooper's hawk winery triple bottom line jim gordon kelly fleming wine mike hengehold traminette wine mobile applications rick mirer wine wine blogging tips professional culinary institute adobe road the the lost symbol wine stories john hughes '47 cheval blanc bordeaux reconquest santasti kevin zraly paul clary sweet wines zinfandel producers california wine for dummies best wine blog us wine sales dessert wine di arie rose napa cab. napa cabernet amazon wine constellation wine washington wine deck wine lindsay ronga batgirl wine top chef hardy wallace firestone wine contest burger wine lonely island where the hell is matt southern gothic wine food revolution french paradox dark side of the rainbow gallo thomas pellechia wine spectator top 100 2009 cinderella wine sanford pinot noir rombauer digital marketing obama inauguration michael ruhlman wine spectator wine reviews karadeci the business of wine iphone wine mobile apps winery promotions whole foods wine first blush juice cult cabernet boston beer company trinchero wine tasting rooms viktor frankl chateau petrus barack obama + wine mark squires wine and music scheurebe sherry wine tycoon healdsburg terroir wine branding global wine partners wine terroir southern wine and spirits wine lists adam strum tinybottles 100 point system vineyard church communion wine luxury wine marketing wall street journal wine columnists "frankenwine" wine authors nbwa old vine zinfandel cluetrain manifesto down under by crane lake unified symposium jackson-triggs vidal ice wine clif winery name your own price mirror wine company indiana gourmet food allocated cabernet the wine line core wine drinkers janet trefethen bruce reizenman wine wisdom lewin's equation 1winedude chacha rudolf steiner wine expedition fat tire beer mothervine supplements continuum texas bbq wine pairing prince's hot chicken king estate guinness advertising 2007 stoneleigh pinot noir wine pr wineamerica wine and art jason kroman alloutwine.com wine mou hess collection wine social media expensive wine trends wines and vines kelly fleming cabernet the new yorker ted lemon whyte horse winery iphone wine apps. palate press wine blogging strategies wine certification the traveling vineyard johnnie walker chateau latour planet bordeaux sherry wine paul clary blog gracianna wine wine cartoons alan goldfarb fusebox wine moms who need wine ted jansen hourglass wine murphy-goode wine trading down dip the new frugality patio wine bryan q. miller argentina wine zephyr adventures barolo santana dvx au revoir to all that formula business ordinance .wine geocaching brigitte armenier rockaway wine red bicyclette social media topps augmented reality rancho zabaco zinfandel woot wine new zealand wine sanford chardonnay lettie teague nba liquor advertising noble pig award of excellence ericca robinson andy warhol quotes fermentation anthony dias blue home winemaking consumer shopping research the best pinot noir food & wine magazine a year in wine apple iphone man's search for meaning st. helena catholic church snooth karen macneil music and wine german riesling secret sherry society cult wines wine video game russian river valley pinot wine appellations reset "old world wine darwinism wine star awards tastingroom.com bruliam wine generation y. wine april fool's day wine park avenue catering fine wine marketing wine tasting journal wine competitions national beer wholesalers association clos lachance dr. oz yellow tail wine jon fredrikson wine blogging wednesday climber red priceline.com drew bledsoe amazon.com wine california cabernet paso robles wine sales hailey trefethen


The Missing Culture in Wine isn’t Yeast or Lifestyle

The domestic wine world has yeast culture in spades, and certainly a different kind of cultivated culture in wine lifestyle.  However, the most basic and, perhaps, the most important “culture” seems to be missing from the wine business.

How does a winery create a “culture” of excellence that transcends product, hospitality and marketing to build something that imbues itself as a core value, a “walk the walk” sensibility that empowers and instills the sense of being a part of something powerful and meaningful?

It’s this “culture” that is missing, lost somewhere in between a focus on the land and the marketing.

Worse yet, it’s also this “culture” that has the greatest opportunity to fix what ails the wine industry, despite a misplaced focus on developing “terroir” by one of the wine industry’s great provocateurs.

image

Noted vintner, thinker and marketer Randall Grahm gave a speech at UC Davis earlier this month.  From the transcript of his UC Davis speech, I’ve excerpted notable passages from the 2700 word essay that weaves two main narratives – brand and terroir, the conflict between the two and how the California wine industry can resolve the tug in between commerce and creating something that is meaningful. 

In excerpting very heavily, I’ve remained true to the narrative.  I’ll expand on my point after the excerpts …

Grahm says:

What I’m really thinking about these days … is how one might find meaning in the wine business … I believe that we in the California wine industry have to take a serious look at how we think about wines, as our business as usual practices are no longer working so well.  I think it is time for us to take seriously the idea of terroir.

Not excerpted, but notable, Grahm goes on to review how he’s reading articles from an author who critiques the ubiquity of brands in the U.S., citing Nike and Starbucks for representing an idea, a proxy for an experience or an association, more so than the product itself.

Our products are no longer esteemed for what they actually are, where they are made, who actually made them, but for what they abstractly represent.  There is now, as it is said, no more “there” there, as this is nowhere more acutely visible than in the wine business.

… I believe that there is also something akin to a spiritual malaise, a sort of “brand sickness” developing in our industry … the rather vertiginous feeling that it is rather difficult to find the real value of anything any more … every label … is seemingly shrieking at top volume, trying to tell its story … it’s become very hard to get beyond these surfaces, to penetrate to the heart of the matter.

… What I really think we are experiencing in the wine business is a something like a “meaning deficit” – do scores really matter?  Does scarcity matter?  What do we truly mean by wine quality in the New World, in the absence of history, demonstrable track record?  Who can I really trust to give me the skinny on what I should be drinking?

I, at least, have the notion that “Napa” has ceased being a real place and has become nothing so much as an ideational construct, much like “wine country,” … So, I think that in this era of deep thirst for meaning, in a time where there appears to be no “there” there we can learn quite a lot from the French idea of terroir … terroir is in fact the precise opposite of nowhereness; it is truly “somewhereness,” and therefore deeply imbued with meaning, the very antidote to what is poisoning our industry right now.

Not excerpted, but also notable is Grahm goes on a long metaphorical guitar solo after the above passage and shifts his focus to two different styles of French wine – a vins d’effort (a wine of effort) and a vins de terroir (a wine that expresses a sense of place).

We return to the action …

So, it is clear to me that my personal path must be the pursuit of terroir, and as supremely worthy as this quixotic vision might be, it may certainly (be) far more aspirational than realistically attainably, at least in one lifetime; I don’t know if I advocate this path for everyone, and wonder sometimes if I am not myself chasing after moonbeams.  For one thing, there are just so many damn variable to consider – have you planted on your site the right rootstock, with the right spacing, the right exposure, and of course, do you have a felicitous match between your grape variety, the soil, and the climate and the microclimate?  Is the site itself unique and distinctive, with a unique geology, exposure?

Most importantly, you have to ask yourself, “Might I actually achieve something of true originality?”

…In conclusion, my thought is that the great value aspiring (in) aspiring to produce vin de terroir is not so much in its practicality – I’ve alluded to the fact that it may well be impossible to find terroir in a single generation – but rather, it is the gift that terroir gives us in how we choose to think about what we do.  An esteem for terroir makes us look at our land and its custodianship in a different way, engendering a deep love and respect, a great gift to ourselves and to everyone with whom we share this planet.

The skepticism I have with Randall’s premise and his line of thought is he defines the business of the business of wine down lines of demarcation far too simply.  It would seem that in his worldview you have how the wine is made and how the wine is marketed, but nothing in between.

In elaborating on his philosophy that “business as usual practices are no longer working so well,” and that there is “no more ‘there’ there” and a “spiritual malaise” in the wine business he fails to acknowledge anything related to the CULTURE of his business.

image

Perhaps he’s sensing a spiritual malaise because there’s no meat in between his two slices of bread – meat in the form of a set of values, and deeds that represent what his business stands for and how he leads others as a businessperson.

A business is the sum of its parts and the product and the marketing make up mere components of a greater whole.

Wine and “terroir” aside, I wonder if Grahm has ever considered:

• What do you stand for as a business?
• How do you treat and empower your employees on a daily basis in a way that shapes how they represent the winery and themselves?
• What would your employees say confidentially about the environment and the core values you represent every day as a business entity?
• Do you treat your value-chain as stakeholders?

And, perhaps, most importantly, the question related to values for Grahm to ask himself is a sort of brain teaser: if faced with the task of taking people, culture and business assets and working in an entirely different industry, why would you be successful?  Or, better yet, could you be successful?

image

Taking “terroir” out of the equation, business “culture” is tradition, it’s the glue that binds, creates professional tradition, and fosters business norms, customs, virtues and values.

In fact, using his examples of Nike and Starbucks, where Grahm laments the aspirational notion of brand-building, I would suggest that immediately, any attuned customer knows not only the brand Nike and Starbucks, but also the business of Nike and Starbucks – and what they stand for.  Starbucks = employee healthcare.  Nike = innovation.

I have long observed, but never been able to completely quantify what that je ne sais quoi was that was missing from the wineries I’ve interacted with professionally.  The challenge is, Randall is not alone in seeing business life so simply – making wine and selling wine—and yearning for something authentic to hold on to.

When the wine business looks like a crafted backstory, marketing elements and wine, you’ve created something that skews far too heavily to trading against a façade of something that isn’t entirely authentic.

Ultimately, and unwittingly, Grahm answers his own question – yes, it is near impossible to “find terroir in a single generation” yet the impact he can make, “look(ing) at our land and its custodianship in a different way, engendering a deep love and respect, a great gift to ourselves and to everyone with whom we share this planet” is an ideal that is accomplishable outside the bounds of the actual wine, it’s just going to require a different culture than what he (and the wine industry at large) is used to cultivating.  And, to Grahm’s chagrin, it will be an act of “d’effort.”


share

What Comes Before and After Spoofulated?

Conditioned by a society hell bent on labels, and with more than a little bit of German heritage that is desirous of order mentally if not physically, I find myself wanting to put wines into a natural field classification system.

You know an “A is for Apple, B is for Boy” kind of thing.

Or, perhaps, this affliction in trying to makes sense of something that doesn’t naturally make sense is caused by attending one too many parties where the 1.5L of wine is barely potable, as it was this past weekend with a “Barefoot Wallaby,” or something like that.

Now, make no mistake, many people have talked about a winery-type classification system – something based on a craft sensibility, or case load, etc.  Something that denotes the type of winery one is and the type of wine produced – artisanal, corporate, that sort of thing.

image

This is well and good, but increasingly case load by itself isn’t an indicator for the care that goes into winemaking, nor is ownership type.  In fact, I’m most interested in the style of wine—something that tells me what is in the bottle from a profile perspective.

Call it a case of the “extracted” blues.  Or, the “Barefoot Wallaby” blues. 

And, other “taste” classifications like “soft” or “fruity” aren’t going to cut it.

Incidentally, Randall Grahm touches on this subject at his book web site in a transcript from a speech he gave at UC Davis earlier this month.

In his wide-ranging treatise that covers “brand” versus “terroir” and introduces words like “brand sickness” (which I’ll cover tomorrow in a different post), Grahm notes:

In the world of wine you can certainly dichotomize the universe rather neatly between the industrial, and the artisanal the standard and the truly singular.

But there is an even finer distinction to be made, a distinction between what the French call vins d’effort, or wines of effort and vins de terroir, or wines which express a sense of place. You can almost think of this maybe as less of a dichotomy but rather as some sort of continuum. A “wine of effort” is one that bears the strong stylistic imprint of the winemaker, and one where the winemaker has controlled virtually every aspect of the production, from the deficit drip-irrigation of the vines to the use of selected clones, selected “designer” yeasts, enzymes and malolactic bacteria; there is a strong overlay of “house style.”

Now, I’m not the smartest guy, I’m from Indiana and I went to mid-major college, a place where I was happier to be there then they were to have me, certainly.  Given that (or perhaps despite that), the above doesn’t make much sense to me.

First, Grahm notes that there is an easy dichotomy in the world of wine in between the industrial and the artisanal, but he goes on to talk about a CONTINUUM between a “wine of effort” and a wine of place.

image

Regardless, it’s the striations (or continuum) in between the “wine of effort” and the wine of place that interest me.

Simply, there’s a difference in between a Marquis Phillips Shiraz and a Barefoot Shiraz.  Likewise, there’s a difference in between a Sineann Pinot Noir and Kosta Browne.

It’s not as simple as Grahm might suggest – a wine of effort equals “New World” and a wine of place equals “Old World.”

Yet, it’s not that complex, either.

In a back of napkin exercise that took moments, I classified wines into the following categories:

Natural:  Wine from vines that collectively represent as little intervention as possible in the process of growing grapes and their fermentation

Terroir:  A wine that comes from cultivated vines and express the unique characteristics of the climate and soil of their geography

Style:  A wine that carries the signature of the winemaker who made it

Spoofulated: A type of wine (typically red) that is extracted (dense), high in alcohol and best served without food

Wine Beverage: A beverage made from grapes with additives that enhance flavor and color while promoting consistency from year to year.

My overall point is a simple one – one of the reasons the wine world continues to progress in inches rather than yards is a stunning lack of clarity and alignment on the simplest things.

With natural wines and imports making a broad assault on consumer awareness, and the debate of “Old World” versus “New World” continuing to rear its feral head, the wine world (at least domestically) must create some sense of order—both for the good of understanding who they are marketing to and for the good of the consumer who wants to understand what they are buying.

A classification system need not be formal, and need not be expansive, but it does need to be generally acknowledged and it needs to encompass a wider variability than the tired clichés of “old” versus “new” with a dash of “terroir.”


share

Dessert Wine, Four Famous Wine People and Me

File in:  No good publicity goes unacknowledged.

I am very pleased to be featured in the March/April edition of Imbibe magazine as a part of their cover story on real-world wine pairings. 

The thing I like about Imbibe (I’m a subscriber) is it’s not just a wine magazine, but a beverage magazine with wide ranging, human-interest based coverage of wine, spirits, coffee and tea.  They cover the au courant aspects of drinks culture in a highly educational, very approachable fashion with enough moxie to stay above the fray.

In fact, there are two magazines that help keep me culturally aware of what’s happening in my dual interests of music and wine and Paste and Imbibe magazine do a very similar and very nice job covering their respective genres.

On newsstands now, Imbibe can be found at your local Borders or Barnes and Noble.

image

The specific piece in which I’m featured is a, “What’s your favorite wine & food pairing” call-out alongside Kevin Zraly, Randall Grahm, Marnie Old, and Leslie Sbrocco.

I’m sure for the rest of them, my inclusion makes it seem like they’ve mistakenly stumbled upon open swim for the caddies at the country club, but I’ve never been opposed to crashing a party.

And, ironically enough, as a 15 year resident of Indianapolis, I’m right below Randall Grahm’s quote in the featurette where he says:

“Many, many years I did a winemaker dinner in Indianapolis where the chef paired a quail molé dish with a still, red pinot meunier that we produced at the time.  The pairings of the wine and the food was so unbelievably cosmic that the patrons in the restaurant spontaneously rose from their seats and began to applaud.  I’ve never seen that happen before or since.  Indianapolis?  Go figure.”

Yeah, Randall.  Indianapolis!  Though, I’m used to that kind of attitude from both the east and the west coast.  Two words, Randall:  Banana slugs.  As a resident of the greater Santa Cruz area, Randall can’t talk much about high-minded food and wine culture, especially with his UC extension nicknamed the Banana slugs. 

I’ll take a Hoosier against a Banana slug in an ass-kicking contest of any sort.

My quote says:

“I like to follow the ‘drink what you like with what you eat’ school of casual thought, but my favorite pairing, hands down, has to be a white late-harvest dessert wine from California with a cheese and fruit plate.  You don’t have to over-think the pairing, either – I like to think of white dessert wines with a cheese plate as more of an ‘experience’ than a hard and fast pairing with rules.”

image

I didn’t have to think much about this one – my favorite pairing is indeed dessert wine.  It’s the Rodney Dangerfield of the wine world, but it’s a pairing that is the most forgiving and yields the greatest dividends.

To me, dessert wine is like sushi.  Nobody in the U.S. just stumbled into a sushi restaurant for the first time.  You have to be introduced to it.

Dessert wine is the same.

Anymore, it seems like guests are quick to beg off of dessert of any sort, but pull out some dessert wine glasses, a late-harvest dessert wine and a cheese and fruit plate and watch some eyes light up.

Over at Palate Press this past week, Becky Sue Epstein wrote a nice piece about Quady, winner of the 2009 London International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) Trophy for USA Wine Producer of the Year.  Incidentally, the Quady Essensia is the dessert wine I most recommend to newcomers to dessert wines – it’s very good, it’s reasonably inexpensive, it’s consistent from year to year and it’s widely available in most cities across the country.

image

Grab a salty cheese like a gruyere, dried apricots, cocoa roasted almonds, some good quality chocolate and a piece of fresh fruit like an Asian pear and watch people get totally in tune with dessert wines.

It’s almost magical.

I like to serve dessert wines in funky drink vessels like egg cups, but anything will do.

Thanks to Imbibe for including me and make sure you try your own dessert wine pairing as winter winds down!


share

Potholes on the Path to Wine Enlightenment

You could write a Zen koan about the wonky, occasionally nonsensical wine topic that is wine criticism and blind tasting versus context-based (i.e. non-blind) tasting.

The path to enlightenment, in my opinion, is neither.

First, some background.

I’ve read both editions of The Wine Trials by Robin Goldstein and I’ve read several articles and blog posts about the book, as well.  The book is fine for what it is; what it’s not, however, is a genuine truth-seeking manifesto that should be taken as an article of faith.

The main premise of the book is to instill a sense of confidence in wine consumers to trust their palate, while puncturing the notion that a wine has to be expensive to be good. In doing so, the book slaughters just about every sacred cow there is in the world of wine and comes to the conclusion, via blind tasting, that (perhaps symbolically more than empirically), inexpensive wines under $15 best expensive wines that cost from $50 to $150.  The book goes on to present 150 wines (with at least 20,000 cases of production) that won The Wine Trials blind tasting bake-off.

A couple of issues:  First, the most fundamental flaw is that the premise of the book isn’t a fully fledged dissertation and assault on wine convention using junk science.  It’s partly that, but the book exists to tell consumers the wines under $15 that won in blind tastings.

Make no mistake—the core premise of this book is to conduct these wine trials every year and sell you a book … every year.  So, consumers need to look at this with a level of dubiousness when the author does a drive-by shooting of wine critics and the 100 point system, only to further an agenda that lines his own pockets.

The second significant issue is the book doesn’t list the “expensive” wines that these under $15 wines bested.  How is a consumer supposed to trust the blind tasting results when they don’t know what wines were in the opposing category, or really how they were chosen?

The methodology of this book is significantly flawed and designed to appeal to people that know enough about wine, but not too much.  You get the sense that the first 58 pages of the book are designed to lull consumers into a comfort womb; “Yes, the authors are crusaders for the truth,” and hopefully nobody asks any questions.

This brings me to the other ongoing topic that I believe is largely noisiness intended to perpetuate the empirical correctness of wine critics – blind tasting.

In the comments at Steve Heimoff’s site earlier this week, there was a lengthy going back and forth amongst four professional wine critics.

The dialogue centered on blind tasting with the prevailing thought being that blind tasting a wine provides the reviewer with the most objective analysis of a wine, absent bias.

There’s not much to argue with that point because it’s mostly true.  However, one has to wonder if this ongoing “blind tasting” conversation that seems to repeat itself ad nauseum isn’t a subtle policy play and a reach around back pat.

A bigger question to me is does anybody care? 

Going back to our Zen koan, “Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand?”

The reality is that consumer-generated wine reviews are growing SIGNIFICANTLY. The other reality is that virtually no consumer-generated reviews are done blind.

image

If professional wine critics continue to stump on the pulpit about blind tasting (and they do it long and loud enough) they continue to create a line of demarcation for their work relative to the unwashed masses.

That’s fine, if that’s the case.  But, here’s the thing:  It doesn’t matter.  Not only do few people truly care, but information is moving to a level of transparency where context in totality matters … a lot.

A couple of thoughts:

I have long felt that individual wine reviews missed the boat a little bit.  If you look at wine truly through the filter of the average wine consumer, they predominately don’t buy individual wines based on a review.  Now, many do, but that’s at the very upper-end of the price spectrum.  For the vast majority of wine reviews, with general wine quality across the industry being top-notch, a good review is just a good review for an inexpensive wine.  If it’s used as a shelf talker maybe it moves the needle, otherwise it goes into the abyss of information.

Instead, I believe, what consumers do is scan reviews and build brand familiarity.  “I may not be sure if it’s the Riesling or Cabernet from Chateau St. Michelle that was supposed to be good, but I’ll pick up the wine I have in my hand regardless,” goes the thinking.

I will do an entirely separate post on this topic related to the social science of consumer choice and risk mitigation, but suffice to say there’s a lot of data that supports this.

Again, to me, what the majority of reviewing activity is good for is creating a level of mental stickiness about THE WINERY in the consumer’s memory bank, not an individual wine.

Given this thought, you might wonder why more people don’t review wineries en total – as in, “Beringer, across their line-up, produces the most consistent quality wines under $15 based on the following individual reviews.”  This is a much more useful way to do things instead of on a one-off basis.  Consumers have demonstrated a limited capacity to remember individual things, but they remember brands.

In addition to this, we are seeing twin movements that also play into this “winery as a total entity” notion.

Yelp, a retail-oriented, consumer generated review site, is growing at a very fast pace.  It’s growing so significantly that VinoVisit and Cork’d have created a strategic alliance for consumer-generated content that will now include visitor reviews—a subtle pick-up from the Yelp business model (the Yelp site already includes a significant number of California winery reviews).

Simply, customer service and the tasting room is the new “review” frontier and no longer is a good (or bad) experience relegated to word of mouth.  Now it’s a broadcast message.

image

Finally, Wal-Mart has been working on their “Sustainability Index.”  Similar to my mention of wine reviews, brands and mental stickiness, I could create an entire post on this Wal-Mart index, as well.

Suffice to say that they are creating a visual and/or numeric index that will be displayed with each product (including wine) that grades companies on their commitment and support of green practices.  It’s expected that other retailers will adopt this methodology, as well.

So, a winery is graded for their wine(s), their on-premise customer service, and, very shortly, their support of green and sustainable business practices.

image

My point here is that blind tasting is really a great topic, as is skewering the conventions of wine criticism – it makes for endless fun.  But, this is a topic that wouldn’t have been widely discussed six or seven years ago, and it’s not a topic that will be discussed six or seven years in the future. The ship has sailed and those that are interested in true wine enlightenment will soon see a winery at 360 degrees – quality across their wine line-up from consumer reviews in aggregate (as well as professional critics), their customer service in the form of a star rating, and how they conduct their business in the form of sustainability – likely delivered as a score.

So, while I can indulge today’s give and take about wine critics and blind tasting, it seems to me that the smart people are figuring out a meta-analysis that takes all of this content into a usable form that measures a winery across all of the categories that are emerging.

For those that get fired up about critics and scores, the bottom line isn’t far away, but this time it’ll be the so-called triple bottom line that measures a winery far more holistically, comprehensively and transparently then what we have today, and it won’t be blind, nor will it have to be.


share

Field Notes from a Wine Life – Celebrating Small Triumphs Edition

Odds and Ends from a life lived through the prism of the wine glass …

Doing Good, More Better

Here’s the thing about charity – it’s deeply personal.  Save for a crisis that rally’s our collective consciousness, most good works are done on a small, local level with a resonance that hits our personal tide pools of feel good.  My work for local hunger relief doesn’t strike the same chord for my wife who does dog rescue.  You’re probably the same way with a completely different and very worthy cause that smacks you between the eyes and cuts into the fiber of your being deep enough to spur action and affect change.

Regardless of what your personal call-to-arms might be, here’s something we can all agree on – kids getting sick really sucks.

From March 1st – March 5th, Lamborn Family Vineyards, producers of minuscule amounts of Howell Mountain Cabernet and Zinfandel (with a helping hand from winemaker extraordinaire Heidi Barrett), are doing something about it. 

image

Holding a silent auction via Facebook in support of a children’s cancer charity called, “Alex’s Lemonade Stand,” organizer Brian Lamborn is hoping to supersize the personal giving efforts he’s made in years past with his family. 

The thing I like about “Alex’s Lemonade Stand” is their administrative expenses relative to income are very modest, meaning most of their income goes to good works related to their mission, as it should be.  In addition, they fund the dual need of cancer research and the travel needs of families affected by cancer, hitting the cancer dastard from the top and the bottom.

The highest bidder of this silent auction wins one case each of the Lamborn Family Zin and Cabernet AND the folks from the winery will come to your location (anywhere in the contiguous 48 states), pour and kibitz with your family and friends for four hours, at no cost other than your winning bid.

It’s a winery-in-box for an event you can hold on a local level.

The thing is, this is a perfect “pay-it-forward” model, too.  Your winning silent auction bid leads to an event in which you can gather folks, drink some red wine (researchers show that resveratrol, the antioxidant found in red wine, can be a preventative agent for cancer) and shakedown give attendees the opportunity to donate to your local children’s hospital, for example. It’s a win-win-win.

Look, times are still tight, we all give in our own ways, and the call for giving is omnipresent, but if ever there was a cause worthy of an “It’s for the kids” heartstring tug, it would be children with cancer.  I urge you to consider making a bid at the Lamborn Family Vineyard charitable giving Facebook pageMarch 1st through the 5th.

Wine Holidays

On a completely separate and unrelated note, but apropos to President’s Day, I’ve added a section to my web site called, “Wine Holidays.”

image

Last year, with the approval of the brand stewards at Constellation (and Margrit Mondavi, I’m told), I started what I expect to be an annual observance – Robert Mondavi Day.

On May 16th of this year, the 2nd anniversary of Mondavi’s passing, I plan on continuing my blossoming tradition and drinking a Robert Mondavi wine (or a California wine, in general, if you’re inclined to join me) while reflecting for a moment about the man that meant so much to the development of the California wine industry we know today.

A day of acknowledgement and a tipple with dinner seems fitting, no?

A week after observing Robert Mondavi Day last year, I wrote a post about wine holidays in general – as in, why don’t we recognize a calendar of wine events?  Heck, the Irish spread the craic with St. Patrick’s Day, shouldn’t wine lovers bring forth a little merriment on a scheduled basis?

I think so.

When I wrote the post, I suggested a couple of days as possibilities – John James Dufour Day in honor of the first successful winery in the U.S. and Judgment of Paris Day in honor of that famous wine day in 1976. As I contemplated a full year of holidays it needed to include what already informally existed along with the symbolic wine holidays that are well known (Thanksgiving and New Year’s). 

Ultimately,  I think I landed on a set of days that make sense to me. See if you agree.

Open That Bottle Night / February 27th: Started by Dorothy J. Gaither and John Brecher, former wine columnists at the Wall Street Journal, this day is designed for celebrants to open that “special occasion” wine on the last Saturday of every February.  This “holiday” already has a fair amount of momentum, and is a fitting start to the “wine year” (along with being a fitting legacy to Dottie and John).

John James Dufour Day / April 3rd: A day in honor of John James Dufour, the Swiss immigrant who is widely credited with starting the first successful winery in Vevay, IN around 1807.  I chose April 3rd this year as the first Saturday in April and a timeframe that coincides with the awakening of the vines and bud break.

Robert Mondavi Day / May 16th: As mentioned, a day to honor a legend.

Judgment of Paris Day / May 24th: Close on the heels of Robert Mondavi Day is the anniversary of the Judgment of Paris – the famous 1976 wine tasting in Paris that bolstered the nascent California wine industry.

Blessing of the Grapes Day / August 15th: A holiday to celebrate the harvest; traditional blessings tend to range in timeframe from the middle of August until the end of September.  Aligning more closely with the ecumenical aspects of this holiday, I’ve placed it smack dab in the middle of August.

Thanksgiving / November 25th:  Celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, Thanksgiving has become the “unofficial” wine holiday.  It’s the linchpin of the wine holiday calendar.

Prohibition Repeal Day / December 5th:  This day celebrates the already acknowledged anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.  Can there be a better reason to pop a cork and pour a glass?  A week into holiday madness, it certainly could be a respite to be thankful for small blessings.

New Year’s Eve / December 31st:  Champagne and sparkling wines night in the spotlight!

Shortly, I plan on supporting this section of my site with a Facebook Fan page, as well.  In the meantime, please feel free to grab the available code to place a badge on your web site and please feel free to make a suggestion for a wine holiday that should be included, but isn’t listed.  I’d like to include a “Drink Local” day, and I’m open to suggestion on when that should land on the “Wine Holiday” calendar.


share

Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 >


Archives


View More Archives