Monday, October 27, 2008


My friend Kat asked me to let her know immediately whenever I stumbled upon great values while shopping for wine. She told me this after thoroughly enjoying a delicious and very inexpensive Vouvray I brought for a little get-together at her home some time ago. It was the 2006 Michel Picard Vouvray. I paid $8.99 at Cost Plus World Market, and all of us were duly impressed. Floral notes on the nose accompanied roasted hazelnuts on the tongue, with a pleasant, slightly bitter finish. Some background info: Vouvray is a wine from the Loire region of France, made from the white Chenin Blanc grape. It’s one thing for a wine to cost less than 10 bucks and be good, but it’s quite another to cost less than 10 and be really enjoyable. Buy it for yourself or anyone you know who loves white wines.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back from Italy!

Okay, I didn't just get back. No matter, read about my travels here.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Book Review: Robert Parker

The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste by Elin McCoy. HarperCollings, 2005

If I didn’t know much about Robert Parker before, I certainly do now. Before reading this fascinating book, I knew he was a controversial figure in the world of wine, sharply criticized just as much as admired for his famous 100-point wine scoring system and apparently one-dimensional preference for certain wines.

McCoy chronicles Parker’s rise as a wine-loving lawyer from Maryland whose discovery of and passion for wine led him to start a newsletter chock-full of tasting notes called The Wine Advocate in 1978.

McCoy has known Parker since 1981 and, in my view, portrays him pretty evenly, with evidence of both admirable traits and serious flaws. There was a definite sense of her playing devil’s advocate to his seemingly praiseworthy attributes throughout the book, and indeed in the final chapter, “Scoring Parker,” she outlines her opinions of his approach to wine and his undeniable power and influence, both good and bad. For example: “I find scoring wine with numbers a joke in scientific terms and misleading in thinking about either the quality and pleasure of wine, something that turns wine into a contest instead of an experience.”

Repeatedly we see evidence of Parker’s thin skin and inability to ignore criticism, sometimes bristling at it and at other times openly challenging it. That being said, what does he think about McCoy’s book? I wasn’t able to find anything online about it, but I’m rather curious about it, so if you can tell me, please post a comment!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cat Pee...What?

It seems I've sparked a bit controversy with my "cat pee" descriptor in my last post. I admit it's strange to see that used as anything other than negative, but it's actually a defining characteristic of the Sauvignon Blanc grape.

In order to prove that I'm not completely looney tunes, consider this. Linda Murphy, wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, describes cat pee in some Sauvignon Blancs as "a pungently 'perfumed' mix of herbs, asparagus, green bean and bell pepper." She also states, "Vintners . . . know that compounds inherent in the grapes, pyrazines, are the source of cat pee notes. Pyrazines dissipate in the sun as fruit ripens; the less ripe the grapes, the more pungent the Sauvignon Blanc."

The Italian Sauvignon in my last post was not a product of underripe grapes, however. The wine merely gave the suggestion--a subtle hint--of it. It was just one component of a satisfying, well-made whole!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A lovely Italian white

Allow me to tell you super quickly about a wine I recently opened that was quite divine. It is one my mom and I acquired at the Marchesi di Gresy winery in the Piedmont region of Italy, their 2005 Sauvignon. (In Italy they refer to Sauvignon Blanc simply as Sauvignon). Mom and I visited the region in October of 2006 and I left the bottle at her home in Italy. She brought it to me during her last visit and I finally remembered to throw it in the fridge. I opened it one weeknight to sip with dinner and OH MY it was yummy. Aromas of tart lime, cat pee-pee (you won’t mind, I promise!), kiwi and fresh grass delighted my nose, and then I swear the wine danced on my tongue with its vivid palate. It was elegant, with flavors that evolved with each sip. What started out as juicy green olives morphed into a smooth nuttiness about 20 minutes later. A very impressive example of Italian Sauvignon Blanc—and at an average of $16 a bottle—a doggone good deal.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Book Review

Most of us will never have to worry about the possible pitfalls or experience the exhilaration of owning a vast, expensive fine wine collection. Keeping that in mind, All About Wine Cellars by Howard G. Goldberg is still an interesting read. Perusing the wine book section at Border’s one day and having 10 bucks to spend, I picked up a copy. It’s a short read (112 pages including some photos) but a rather rich glimpse into the world of collecting fine wine, from purchasing it on the secondary market at wine auctions to fastidiously establishing the ideal storing conditions at home. (These ideal storing conditions for wine are, inarguably: constant, cool temperature, darkness, moderate humidity, no vibrations, and bottles resting in a horizontal position.) Included in this reference are chapters on making/designing a home cellar; organizing your cellar (by vintage? by region? by price? perhaps simply alphabetically?); what besides the wine itself you should have in said cellar; critiques on the types of corkscrews one should use for opening delicate, old bottles; and ordering wine in restaurants.

Goldberg’s account is informational, punctuated by anecdotal experience, and he lets interviews with wine professionals do some of the instruction for him. For example, for advice to those starting a wine collection (not necessarily a cellar full of wines to put away for a long time) but don’t know where to begin, he interviewed New York wine writer and educator Harriet Lembeck. She proposes that buying wine should be dictated, quite simply, by taste, and by making comparisons among wines that are stylistically similar. Compare a few different crisp, dry, unoaked white wines and the ones you enjoy most are the ones you should invest in. Do the same with oaky whites, lighter-bodied reds, robust reds, dessert wines—you get the idea. Before you know it, you have a nice stock of wine you can work with, some to enjoy sooner and some to enjoy later. Collecting wine and housing a swanky cellar in one’s home is usually the purview of the affluent, but I like that Goldberg eschews snobbery, proclaiming, “A real cellar, in my view, arises primarily from a love of the thing in itself, like a garden, not from a love of showing it off. It’s the difference between having a real wife and an—ugh—trophy wife.” Point taken, Mr. Goldberg. One final jewel: besides the usual bread, cheese, and crackers to cleanse your palate between tastings of wine, imagine olives! Particularly those from California’s C. C. Graber Company (since 1894). Now that’s a tidbit of advice I can begin using tomorrow!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wine + Technology = Yay!

A brand new wine bar opened up in Decatur, GA called Tastings. They’re a franchise operation originating in Florida and their big draw is a wine serving technology manufactured by Enomatic (made in Italy—is there any surprise there?). Bottles stand in neat rows, each with a plastic straw inside it, which dispenses wine in measured pours: tasting, a half-glass, or a full glass. You insert their pre-paid card into the machine and take your pick of how much to sample. It’s a playful, Dave & Buster’s-like approach to wine tasting—and I had a blast. Selections included over 100 wines ranging from budget-friendly ones at $1.70 per tasting to a Barolo priced at a whopping $10 per tasting (and $45 per full glass! Yeah, impress your date with that one!) Tastings brings in new wines every week so you can go often and not get bored with the wines offered. A retail wall of closed bottles means you can take something home with you, and a small bistro menu means you won’t have to record your tasting notes over a rumbling tummy. Does your date love wine but you’d prefer a brewski instead? They have a bar with some lovely nice beers on tap and spirits too, not to mention cigars!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Welcome to my mind!

Hello and welcome to my very first blog! I hope this will be a fun and fruitful journey into the vast and beautiful world of wine--one in which we can both learn together. There are lots of very fine wine blogs out there, but in my bottomless naivete (or call it arrogance if you must), I like to think I might just have a little somethin' to say. I thrive on constantly educating myself, however, so as a great listener and an even better reader, I welcome your thoughts on anything pertaining to wine. Salute!