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Winebits 396: Investing in wine, Scottish wine, Bill St. John

• Tulips, anyone? The Wine Curmudgeon rarely passes up an opportunity to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald on one of his (and my) favorite subjects: “You know, the rich are different from you Read More »

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Helping The Daily Meal understand local and the best U.S. wineries

How do we know that regional wine is firmly part of the wine mainstream? When a hip and with it on-line magazine, edited by Colman Andrews — one of the most influential Read More »

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Mini-reviews 75: White wine for summer

Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. Th month: white wine Read More »

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Let the computer write the wine reviews

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Wine of the week: Hess Sauvignon Blanc Select 2014

The knock against Big Wine is that it can’t make terroir-driven wines, because the formula that has given us better quality at lower prices works against that style. But that’s not necessarily Read More »

Winebits 396: Investing in wine, Scottish wine, Bill St. John

fscottfitzgerald

investing in wineTulips, anyone? The Wine Curmudgeon rarely passes up an opportunity to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald on one of his (and my) favorite subjects: “You know, the rich are different from you and me.” How else to explain this story about investing in wine from the New York Times. It talks about how the wealthy borrow money against their wine collections the way the rest of us do against our homes (assuming, of course, we even own one). Says the founder of one such lender: “Whether it’s real estate or wine, it doesn’t make sense to accumulate assets with pure cash. With wine, you can borrow and not put your home or some other important asset at risk. You can finance toys with toys.” And the tulip reference? The Dutch 17th century economic crash brought on by flower speculating — not that I’m making comparisons.

Not this vintage: Remember the Monty Python bit about the Scotsman who has to defend Wimbledon’s honor? It came to mind when I read this piece about what is apparently the first vintage ever of Scottish wine — admirable and a good try, but “undrinkable.” The wine, a white made with cold-hardy grapes, is apparently oxidized, a not uncommon problem for inexperienced regional winemakers working with odd grapes in untested climates. Still, if we can do it in Texas, there is hope.

One of the best: I only met Bill St. John a couple of times, but I read him regularly and appreciated his skill as a wine writer. Bill was someone who cared about quality and value, and he wrote for his readers in clear and concise language. He has retired from the Chicago Tribune, and his final column says it all: “By and large, we take wine and especially winemaking way too seriously. We’ve made of winemakers what we’ve made of chefs — superstars and entertainers. … We’ve let winemaking and so much folderol about wine — buying, storing, collecting and bloviating — get in the way of our wine.” Bill will be much missed.

 

Helping The Daily Meal understand local and the best U.S. wineries

winetrends

best U.S. wineriesHow do we know that regional wine is firmly part of the wine mainstream? When a hip and with it on-line magazine, edited by Colman Andrews — one of the most influential people in the food world — lists the 101 best U.S. wineries and 13 are from The Other 47. And, even more impressively, the editors knew so much about drinking local that they don’t even need to ask the most qualified regional wine experts in the country for their input.

Call it just another day at the office for the Winestream Media.

Do not take this as poor mouthing on my part. I’m more grateful than I can write that our work with Drink Local Wine made a difference, whether it’s Eric Asimov’s endorsement of New York wine or Food & Wine’s Ray Isle, who is as open minded about regional wine as he is about cheap wine. And when local gets the kind of play it did from something as high profile and as 21st century as The Daly Meal, I know how far we’ve come.

Or think that I need to rant about the regional wineries on the list. Like all such efforts, it’s perfectly imperfect. Yes, it’s missing a couple of Texas producers, including Brennan and Pedernales, who should be there, and that no one from Missouri made it speaks to the list’s shortcomings. (Full disclosure: One of the Texas producers in the top 101 is owned by someone who criticizes me regularly for my lack of wine knowledge, and has done it in a comment on the blog, and one of the writers who helped pick the list recently told a Texas winery official that the next time I got my facts right about Texas wine, it would be the first time I did so.)

Rather, it’s the frustration that once the Winestream Media gets hold of something, there’s only one way of doing things, and that’s its way. In the end, that becomes self-defeating, as anyone who has ever read the Wine Spectator knows. “Scores are good because they are, and everyone we know agrees with me. So how dare you question us? Because we don’t know you and we don’t want to know you.”

Hence the need to consult people who understand what’s going on with regional wine from a national perspective, which is mostly lacking with the people who helped pick this list.

That no one asked for my opinion is one thing. I’m in the middle of the country, and, as several of my pals have pointed out more than once, my location and my inability to play nicely with the other children works against me when important people on either coast need experting. But that isn’t the case with Doug Frost, MS, MW, and maybe the smartest regional wine person in the world. No one called Doug, and that’s like writing about baseball and not understanding that the game is nine innings long. And how about Linda Murphy, who wrote the book about the subject? Or Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post, who co-founded DLW and is the country’s leading authority on Virginia wine. Or Andrew Stover, who owns a distributor that imports regional wine to the East Coast and has probably more wine from the Other 47 as anyone in the world.

I emailed Andrews at the Daily Meal to ask him about this, but never heard back. Hopefully, he and I can talk soon, and I’ll update the post. Until then, check the list out, look for wineries in your area, and give them a try. Drinking local is what matters, a lesson I hope the Daily Meal keeps in mind when it does the list next year.

More about regional wine:
Texas wine at the crossroads, one year later

One more sign local wine has made the mainstream
Drink Local Wine, regional wine, and the growth of local

Mini-reviews 75: White wine for summer

winereview

white wine for summerReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. Th month: white wine for summer.

Josh Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($10, purchased, 13.5%): The Josh Cellars reds are some of the best values in the world. Unfortunately, this California white is nowhere near as well made as the reds — thin, bitter, and stemmy, and what seems like fruit chosen to hit the price point and not to make better wine.

Argento Chardonnay Reserva 2014 ($12, sample, 13.5%): Grocery store chardonnay from Argentina that demonstrates how Big Wine can turn ordinary grapes into something quite pleasant when it wants to Look for white stone fruit and a hint of sweetness that balances everything out.

Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($15, sample, 13.5%): Consistent, well-made, varietally correct California sauvignon blanc that always offers value. Look for citrus and tropical flavors, but none that are overdone, and a clean finish. This may cost as little $12 or $13 in the grocery store, which is the time to buy several.

Line 39 Pinot Grigio 2014 ($12, sample, 13%): One of the oddest wines I’ve ever tasted, with little pinot gris or pinot grigio character and more chardonnay flavor than anything else. But it’s 100 percent California pinot grigio, and without any added sugar despite a decidedly sweet feel to it. Go figure.

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