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News, Notes and Dusty Bottle Items – Falling Forward Edition

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

Naturally Late Slow to the Party

In August of 2007, I wrote and wondered (here) why the Slow Food organization didn’t have a “slow wine” equivalent. 

Of course, over the last three years I’ve had an opportunity to gain more insight into the nature and spirit of the “slow” movement and, in hindsight, my original post was a little off base, particularly given how much mindshare “natural” wine is developing in our current wine climate, a presumed bedfellow with “slow.”

With that as background, I was interested to see that Italian Slow Food mothership is releasing their first “Slow Wine” guidebook for 2011 (Italian language only).  The guide, new competition for their former partner, the historically predominant Gambero Rosso guide to Italian wine, forsakes ratings for … subjective analysis … and follows the “slow” philosophy of anti-globalization. 

If you use Google Chrome as your Internet browser you can translate the page found here.

Methinks that adding “slow wine” to the global wine conversation is good and interesting and entirely confusing for the already confused natural wine folks.  For in-the-know wine enthusiasts who already watch the natural wine movement with bemusement this should add immeasurably to the rich pageantry.


I’ve never been able to reconcile why most of the wine business is generally left of Stalin politically, but also conservative literalists when it comes to interpreting right and wrong with wine terms and phraseology. 

We’ll see more of this contradiction in terms with the announcement that the TTB has just provided “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking.”

The net-net is the TTB is considering adding some provisos to TTB regulation for, amongst other things, the use of the word “Estate” associated with “grown,” “bottled” and that sort of thing.  They’re also looking at “single vineyard” for potential definition, as well (see document here). 

We do live in a democracy and the TTB is asking for feedback by January 3rd.  Personally, I don’t have an opinion on it, at least not yet, but I do plan on commenting and exercising my democratic right. And, if anything, I have some additional suggestions – notably, I would like for the government desk jockey’s to take a moment to stop looking at the front label of wine bottles and turn it over to look at the back label.  The sales copy on the back of wine bottles with “boutique” this, “artisan” that “hand-crafted,” “terroir-driven” and more has evolved into meaningless slop just as egregious as “old vine.”

Much of the nomenclature that we take for granted as in-tune wine enthusiasts has as much meaning as a soliloquy from Charlie Brown’s parents … doing anything to fix that fact is a slow burn solution, but a solution nonetheless to many of the marketing issues that plague the domestic wine business and U.S. wine culture writ large.

Just saying …

Kentucky Wine

My wine enthusiasm isn’t always for naught professionally.  I recently had the opportunity to meet with some marketing folks that work on developing the Kentucky wine industry.  The charter is to help them increase awareness and sales, primarily in the “golden triangle” of Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

To say that they’re working from a zero baseline would be polite.  The entire state has 500 acres under vine, most of which is new in the last decade.  The Kentucky wine output for a year (100,000 cases) equates to a rounding error for Fred Franzia ...

However, there are some interesting contrasts that can be drawn especially with Brown-Forman (parent owner of Sonoma Cutrer and Bonterra, amongst others) based in Louisville.  Bonterra, by itself, farms over 1100 acres.

I’d like to see them create a positioning statement – something like, “Hard to find.  Worth the effort” and draw an analogy between big(ger) and small(ler) wineries, especially those in their backyard, while reinforcing their “Kentucky Proud” program that supports local products.

We’ll see …

One interesting thing is both Kentucky and Indiana claim John James Dufour as having the first successful viticultural effort in the U.S. in the late 1700s / early 1800s.  I’ll explore this in a later post.

Reading Between the Wines with the Fuzz of Vinyl

At this point, I’m on the verge of being a sycophantic fan boy of Terry Theise, so frequent has been my mention of his book on this site.  Well, dammit, it’s a good book.  If I were a professor of wine it would be on my reading list … what can I say …

Early in my career when I worked for a book publisher I handled electronic licensing which included licensing books for international language localization, derivative works, and audio and Internet publishing—basically any way book content can be used alternatively by a third-party separate from the book publisher and the author.  It was a good experience, and gave me some insight into how the world of content works.

At this point, I should also mention that I sometimes get on tangents that fly in the face of logic.  In contrast to Ayn Rand acolytes who follow the money, I think that sometimes things should be done for the sake of being done, even if it means breaking even or losing money in the name of what is right.  Given that, I freakin’ really, really want to go to UC Press and license the audio rights to Reading Between the Wines.

I want to rent an old farm house with creaky floors in upstate New York, lube Theise up with some Riesling and cut an audio book of “Reading between the Wines” with a “Director’s Cut” of stories from the import trail and I want to press it to vinyl as an old-school album with the pops, hisses, and the warmth that only vinyl can provide.

I think I might sell about 16 of them and lose my ass in the process, but dammit, it needs to be done.  I have a mental image of drinking vino in my basement, taking Miles Davis off the record player and putting on Theise, communing over something funky in my glass.

It needs to happen …

Secrets of the Sommeliers

In my utterly charming (unless you’re my wife), but scatter brained way, I pre-ordered two copies of Secrets of the Sommeliers by Rajat Parr and Jordan McKay.  It’s a good book – worth a read and worth a spot on the bookshelf.  Because I have two copies, a commenter to this post will be selected at random and win a copy. So, leave a comment.  I’ll send you an email for your address and drop my spare book in the mail.


Posted in, News, Notes & Dusty Bottle Items. Permalink | Comments (6) |


On 11/10, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

With a son who recently relocated to Kentucky from California (talk about culture shock!), I’m interested in hearing more about the “budding” wine industry in the area. Never know when I might have to visit and see what’s happening there.

And I’d love to see what secrets Raj and his partner in wine have to divulge about vino—

On 11/10, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Secrets of the Sommeliers keeps popping up on my radar - I’d like to be either Jordan or Rajat when I grow up!

On 11/11, Kimberly wrote:

I was just thinking last night about all my wine and food-related books and pondering over which one might be in the running for a re-read.  I chose Lettie Teague’s “Educating Peter: How Almost Anybody Can Become An (Almost) Instant Wine Expert.” I love this book for its very entertaining way of teaching something that can sometimes be incredibly dull and tedious in the wrong writer’s hands. 
But maybe next up on the reading list should be “Secrets of the Sommeliers?”  smile

On 11/11, Michael Ellis wrote:

I’d love to hear ‘Reading Between the Vines’ on Vinyl!  Good idea, and such a perfect fit.  Not sure how i’d podcast it though - damn technology!  I’m new to this site but am really enjoying having a look around, looking forward to some more stories and wines from Australia!  Cheers.

On 11/11, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

The Kentucky wine industry.  I wish I had something more pithy to say but at this point, I’m at a loss. 

I will say I want that som book!

On 11/11, Jeff wrote:

Thanks for the comments.

I used the random number generator at and the lucky winner is comment #2—yeh, Kelly.  I’ll send you an email and get your mailing address!



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