November 8 2010
In Part IV (and final installment) of my review, I continue an annual, highly subjective look at what I think is the best of what’s around in the wine scene.
Product Launch of the Year
The One™ wine glasses launched by Master Sommelier Andrea Immer Robinson wins my new product of the year.
First, a new product launch of this sort happens infrequently in the wine world. Second, when a new product launch does happen, it’s usually a disappointment on some level, the claims not quite matching up to reality. That’s not the case with The One™ glasses.
Designed to be all-purpose, everyday glasses – one for a red and one for a white wine, I have found them to be nearly perfect.
As an alpha consumer with a streak of skepticism, I’ve never quite reconciled the Riedel, Spiegelau, Waterford crystal wine glass landscape, instead drinking my wine out of inexpensive glass tumblers whilst the crystal languishes in the china cabinet. Plus, polishing crystal glassware after hand washing is a drag and that’s only if a glass has not broken in your sink after you looked at it wrong.
That said, The One™ glasses are nearly a revelation and have moved into daily use for me, in addition to being something I’ve gifted this year. Why? They are crystal, lead-free, bottom rack of the dishwasher safe (i.e. they handle super-hot water), thin, have a nice bowl that nicely captures wine aromas and they’re incredibly durable.
At $12.95 per glass or $49.95 for a set of four, they are an incredible bargain that will last for year and years. Buy one of each of the red and white glass and do this little test before committing to buying enough for a crowd – run the glass under screaming hot water in your sink, immediately turn the water to cold and run the glass under it, then, as Andre 3000 might say, “Shake it like a Polaroid picture.” Most other crystal wine glasses would snap at the stem in an instant or spontaneously combust. Not this glass.
Kudos to Andrea Robinson and her team for creating something truly useful for the wine enthusiast – a wine glass that handles the way people actually live while providing a good experience for what is in the glass.
Wine Book of the Year
2010 was the year of the wine book, an embarrassment of riches for the wine inclined bibliophile. With releases too numerous to mention, not the least of which are Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine, Secrets of the Sommeliers, Matt Kramer on Wine, The Wild Vine, Opus Vino, and The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries, any of these titles could have won best non-fiction wine book of the year in any other year.
And, as if to add a cherry on top of this book sundae, the book sequel to Sideways, called Vertical, releases in the third week of November.
Despite this depth of quality, my pick is for book of the year is Reading Between the Wines by Terry Theise.
In choosing a winner, the criteria becomes what transcends the enjoyable and has an opportunity to become a benchmark book referenceable for years to come? Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine comes close, as do several other books and the rest are solid backlist titles, but Reading Between the Wines is an instant classic.
Theise’s book is part treatise and part rumination on the human condition. It is rare for a wine book, hell, any type of book, to move you to feeling. Reading Between the Wines does that and more in becoming indispensable reading and re-reading on the thoughtful wine lover’s bookshelf.
Philanthropist of the Year Award
Doing good is a part of the DNA of the wine world. Hardly a week goes by in which a non-profit isn’t picking the pocket of their volunteer base with an event that includes wine, most of which is donated. 2010 saw this is as ongoing concern, with the addition of a tragedy of grave consequence.
When news spread of the earthquake devastation in Haiti in January, a 7.0 on the Richter scale, it didn’t take long for David Honig, Publisher of Palate Press, to mobilize.
As I watched CNN and saw the most horrific scenes of human carnage I’ve ever seen, scarring visages of bodies piled up in the street with heavy equipment creating mass graves, Honig was organizing an online auction, aided by a supporting cast of hundreds who donated wine and purchased bottles with an awareness of the deep consequences the citizens of Haiti were facing.
According to Honig, he expected to gather up a case or two of wine and be able to donate a few hundred dollars. Instead, what he saw was an outpouring of support that far exceeded his expectations. Per Honig, special mention should also go to Lenn Thompson from the New York Cork Report for mobilizing the New York wine industry in a meaningful way.
All told, the Palate Press wine auction for Haiti raised over $17K for Haiti relief, donated to the Red Cross (Palate Press summary post here). A similar and complementary auction led by the Aussies added another $20K.
Kudos to David, Palate Press, Lenn Thompson and a cast of hundreds who contributed to this global cause. As the former founder of a non-profit whose board I sat on said to me, “I appreciate you and volunteers aren’t always appreciated.” My mention in giving David, Palate Press and others an informal award is merely appreciating the good work that has already been done.