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Field Notes from a Wine Life – Football, Residual Sugar and Best-Sellers

More odds and ends from a life lived through the prism of the wine glass …

Here Come the Irish

I’m a huge Notre Dame fan, which fundamentally isn’t that much different from my other passion—wine.  Notre Dame football is polarizing, you either love the integrity the program stands for, or you have a strong distaste for Notre Dame’s perceived arrogance.  There isn’t much middle-ground.  Now, wine isn’t THAT polarizing, but there is certainly a large percentage of the public that resents what they think wine stands for.


One of the things that people often talk about in regards to Notre Dame (besides football) is the “it” feeling you get when you’re on campus.  You can’t describe “it,” but you know “it” when you feel “it.”

That, in a nutshell is the mercurial notion that ties me to wine.  Most often, I can’t quantify why I love wine, aside from what’s in the glass, but it’s not really what is in the glass that interests me wholly, it’s everything else, it’s the “it” and I know “it” when I feel it.

A small blessing in my life is I have been guided and have chosen to accept a passion for two things that, to me, represent a true north compass, and a way to live a dignified and gracious life.

I’m okay with “it” and being on one side of the fence compared to others, stout in my beliefs and my compass.

It’s the Sugar

This is a complete hypothesis on my part, with no facts other than perception (I’m okay with this, too), but I wish I knew what the secret marketing sauce was for Rombauer, Conundrum and Silver Oak.

All three of them seem to be some of the first “expensive” wines that wine fans, who aren’t particularly knowledgeable, gravitate towards.


Trust me, it’s not hard to get into a conversation with somebody who is into wine, (but not ardent in their pursuit) and bump into a Rombauer, Conundrum or Silver Oak reference.

Now, I understand the “why” portion of why people gravitate towards these wines, I think.  Rombauer Zin is big and fruity with residual sugar, their Chard is big, fruity, and oaky, with some residual sugar, and Silver Oak is a quaffable wine that represents acquirable luxury.  All of these things are mile markers on increasing wine fandom. 

However, “how” each of these three brands have earned their perceived niche in the market, ardent fans who know wine, but aren’t particularly knowledgeable, almost in an unspoken way, is really fascinating to me, and I have no idea “how” they did it. 

Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol and Wine

I read a really interesting quote in New York magazine regarding Dan Brown and his literary niche with faux-intelligentsia pot-boiler’s.

It said:


I believe the power of Dan Brown is very simple:  he exists entirely to make us feel smart.  He is devoted to reader empowerment like Keats was devoted to euphony.  Every clause, every punctuation mark, every plot twist, puzzle and factoid is engineered precisely to flatter our intelligence.  This isn’t necessarily something to sneer at; I don’t think Brown is a cynical panderer.  It’s just that his “pleasure-the-reader” instincts (an unconscious authorial cocktail that every writer has) push him, very urgently, to satisfy one of our most primal human needs:  the lust to be oriented, to master one’s environment, to recognize patterns, to process chaos into order.  The Da Vinci Code is intelligibility porn:  You get the satisfaction of understanding, over and over, without any real-world effort.

And the thought that struck me while reading this was wine needs a like equivalent.  It’s definitely not a book, but something that invites people in to understand, to be oriented, to master one’s environment, without much effort.  The reality is that the wine world is chaos, and doesn’t have order.  And, that’s a barrier that most people aren’t willing to tackle.

And, it might help people understand that their acquirable luxury is produced in 50,000 case quantities. 

If I were Wealthy

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have both been in the news over the course of this year regarding their wealth and their philanthropic largesse.

Certainly, both of these guys are notable for their business success and their growing commitment to solving big, global social issues.


However, if I had that much money to burn, in addition to trying to tackle big issues regarding humanity here in the states, I would also take some flights of fancy to try to fix some issues in the wine world – the kind that on the surface seems like a “fool’s bargain,” given the amount of time, effort and money they would take to overcome.

Yup, I would definitely embark on a Forrest Gumpian adventure of trying to alter the course of the future by tackling niggling little things like the exceptional craptitude that marks wine marketing, restaurant wine mark-ups and other issues that are manifest in the wine world.

Things that make you go hmmm …

Aside from a glancing understanding that The Traveling Vineyard is kind of like Avon for wine, I don’t much understand their business.


However, what makes me exceptionally curious is that my site analytics tell me that my site gets consistent traffic on a monthly basis based on a mention I made of The Traveling Vineyard over three years ago.

Over 900 posts and something like 630,000 words written and I get consistent traffic based on a mention of in-home wine tasting parties.  I’m not sure if that’s good or a reason to dab at the corner of my eye with a tissue while looking off into the distance ponderously and wistfully, but it seems like something I need to look into.


Posted in, Free Run: Field Notes From a Wine Life. Permalink | Comments (9) |


On 09/16, Dr. Horowitz wrote:

I’d never heard of The Traveling Vineyard.  New multi-level marketing companies are always fun to hear about!  Thanks for sharing.

Check out Chapter 6 of Rushkoff’s Coercion too.

On 09/16, Dylan wrote:

The only problem regarding your idea for a Dan Brown for Wine is that Dan Brown is weaving a plot that rewards the reader. The reader need only the ability to read. With wine you’re asking more for literacy, but experimentation of the sense, and investments well beyond the book to hone the palate. It’s very much involved, more than a Dan Brown plot which we only pay once to read.

On 09/16, Arthur wrote:

How the did it”

They recognized that the mainstream (i.e. neophyte/beginner) wine consumer drinks sweet. Period.

On 09/16, Arthur wrote:

On second thought, those wines you mentioned do the same for the wine consumers I mentioned as Dan Brown’s books do for their readers.

On 09/17, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I’m sorry wasn’t Notre Dame recently slapped with a two year major violations probation on its football team for among other things instances of academic fraud and significant gifts to players by a booster.

It’s not the perceived arrogance of Notre Dame that rubs many the wrong way.  It’s the delusional, holier-than-thou arrogance.

Other than that, great blog.  Keep up the good work.

On 09/17, Jeff wrote:

ha, lenny!

I think you’re referring to Free Shoe University, otherwise known as Florida State.

The only scandal at ND in the last decade was a sexual assault that was later resolved as a false accusation.

But, yes, even I get turned off by the holier-than-thou aspect.  you’re right.

Thanks for reading!


On 09/17, tricerapops wrote:

i love the ND and wine tie-in - great post Jeff!

On 12/22, super bowl suite wrote:

Various forms of football were played in Australia during the Victorian gold rush, from which emerged a distinct and locally popular sport. While these origins are still the subject of much debate the popularization of the code that is known today as Australian Rules Football is currently attributed to Tom Wills.

On 05/15, TN Pas Cher wrote:

football were played in Australia during the Victorian gold rush, from which emerged a distinct and locally popular sport. While these origins are still the subject of much debate the popular


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