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Carmen Castorina: When a legend retires

The first rule of sportswriting used to be “Don’t god up the ballplayers.” Which meant that athletes were not necessarily better or worse people because they were ballplayers; they were just different, Read More »

wineofweek

Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Rouge 2010

Chateau Bonnet Rouge ($10, purchased, 14%) is the quintessential cheap red wine: • It tastes of where it’s from, in this case the Bordeaux region of France. That means enough fruit to Read More »

winenews

Winebits 351: Wine glasses, wine laws, and economic growth

• Do wine glasses matter? The answer is no, says the Vinepair website in a post that includes the sentence, “Any industry that marries the existence of experts, the spending of cash, Read More »

winereview

Cupcake wine review 2014

• Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($9, purchased, 13.5%) • Cupcake Pinot Grigio 2013 ($9, purchased, 12.5%) Whenever the Wine Curmudgeon reviews Cupcake wines, I always end up writing as much about the Read More »

winenews

How to manipulate on-line reviews with a clear conscience — get a federal court ruling

Always wondered how legitimate the scores and reviews were on sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and the Wine Spectator? Now, thanks to a federal appeals court ruling, you don’t have to wonder: Read More »

Carmen Castorina: When a legend retires

carmen2

carmen castorinaThe first rule of sportswriting used to be “Don’t god up the ballplayers.” Which meant that athletes were not necessarily better or worse people because they were ballplayers; they were just different, and you needed to keep that in mind when you wrote about them.

That approach has served me well over the past three decades, because it made sense for everything I’ve written about: politics, business, film, music, food (especially food), and wine. Perspective is all, and just because someone is a fine winemaker doesn’t mean they’re a good parent or friend or colleague.

So how do I write a piece honoring perhaps the best wine PR person in history without godding him up? Carmen Castorina, who retired earlier this month after some three decades at E&J Gallo, was adored by his colleagues (three farewell lunches); admired by his competitors (“Whenever I see Carmen I smile and feel good”); and apparently returned every phone call he ever got. Would that some of the ballplayers I dealt with were half that talented.

Which is not to say that Carmen and I never had a disagreement. Writers and PR people are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. But what made Carmen the best, and why he was so respected, was that he never let those disagreements get in the way of doing his job. No grudges or snide remarks, and certainly not any of the punishments so popular today — being excluded from events or not told about news because the writer wasn’t “part of the team.”

Carmen always had a story, whether it was the time we were having lunch in Troy Aikman’s booth at a Dallas restaurant and Aikman, the former Cowboys quarterback, showed up and had to sit elsewhere. Or working with Ernest Gallo — yes, that Ernest Gallo — to market the winery’s first varietal wins and to help to take the California wine business into the 20th century. Or, as Carmen told our mutual pal Alfonso Cevola, how he set up umbrellas on the Jersey Shore in summer when he was a kid and that “Al Martino [of "Godfather" fame] always gave me a 50-cent tip.”

I’ve dealt with PR people since the late 1970s, and almost no one did it better. So Carmen will be missed. I’ll even miss his little digs about my failure to include Gallo’s Barefoot in the $10 Hall of Fame and his insistence that Notre Dame was as good a school as my alma mater, Northwestern. And we’ll still have lunch now and again; I just hope Aikman doesn’t want his booth. Cause he ain’t getting it.

Slider image courtesy of Afonso Cevola and on The Wine Trail in Italy, using a Creative Commons license

Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Rouge 2010

wineofweek

Chateau Bonnet rougeChateau Bonnet Rouge ($10, purchased, 14%) is the quintessential cheap red wine:

• It tastes of where it’s from, in this case the Bordeaux region of France. That means enough fruit to be recognizable (mostly red); some earthiness so that it doesn’t taste like it came from Argentina or Australia (almost mushroomy for this vintage); and tannins that make the wine taste better.

• Varietally correct, so that the merlot and cabernet sauvignon taste like merlot and cabernet sauvignon, and not some gerrymandered red wine where the residual sugar level was fixed before the wine was made.

• It doesn’t have any flaws or defects, and is consistent from vintage to vintage.

In this, it shows that simple wines can be enjoyable and that simple does not mean stupid or insulting. What more do wine drinkers need?

And if the Bonnet needs any more to recommend it, this was a four-year-old $10 wine. Too many four-year-old $10 wines don’t make it past 18 months before they oxidize or turn to vinegar.

Highly recommended (as are the Bonnet blanc and rose). The only catch is pricing. Some retailers, even for older, previous vintages like this, figure they can get $15 for it because it has a French label that says Bordeaux. It’s still a fine value for $15, but I hate to give those kinds of retailers my business.

Winebits 351: Wine glasses, wine laws, and economic growth

winenews

wine news wine glassesDo wine glasses matter? The answer is no, says the Vinepair website in a post that includes the sentence, “Any industry that marries the existence of experts, the spending of cash, and the words ‘acquired taste’ as exquisitely as the wine industry does is bound to intimidate the uninitiated.” Which was a guarantee the Wine Curmudgeon would write about it. The post dismisses the idea that different shapes matter — a Bordeaux glass, a Burgundy glass, and so forth — and cites several studies and zings Riedel, the big glass company, repeatedly. Most of which makes sense, since I’ve never been convinced spending $100 for a glass is going to make all that much difference. The difference comes, I think, in whether you use well-made glasses instead of poorly-made ones. I buy the Forte from Schott Zwiesel, about $10 a glass, and am content. That’s about the twice the price of Libbey glasses, but the expense seems worth it.

Hell no, we ain’t reformin’: Pennsylvania’s state-controlled liquor store system has been the subject of much controversy as well as repeated demands for privatization. Reform seems as far away as ever, despite all the effort, and I’ve discovered the reason: Money. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which runs the stores, is a $2.24 billion business. Which is damned big — almost twice the annual sales of Crate & Barrel and only one-sixth the total of Whole Foods, even though the upscale grocer is a national company with more than 360 stores. How many state legislators, regardless of political persuasion, are going to throw away that much money? I’m not even sure I would.

Not just rich people drink wine: There’s a long and surprisingly boring post on Forbes discussing whether wine sales can predict economic growth. If someone can figure out what it actually says, let me know. As near as I can tell, it says that high-end wine sales are a predictor of U.S. economic health, which is not true and seems a silly thing for someone at Forbes to say. Because only five percent of the U.S. population buys wine that costs $20 or more, and the average price of a bottle of wine is about $10. So what the price of vineyard land in Napa Valley has to do with economic growth is beyond me. Which is probably why I do this and don’t write for Forbes.

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