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Category Archives: Podcasts

Winecast 26: Rich Cook, wine competition director

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rich cookRich Cook runs three wine competitions and he is an assistant director for four more. And that’s not even his real job; Rich makes his living as a public school music teacher.

In this, Rich brings a fine palate and a sensibility about wine that more people should have. So who better to talk about wine competitions and what wine drinkers can learn from them?

I know Rich from the Critic’s Challenge, where he is the assistant director to Robert Whitley and works with Robert on three other events. Rich also runs the Monterrey and Toast of the Coast competitions, as well as the San Diego County Fair home wine contest (which may be the most difficult kind of event to run).

We discussed how wine competitions work, something that doesn’t get enough attention in the wine world; what medals mean and how they are awarded; and how to tell if a particular competition’s results are relevant to you as a consumer. We also talked about the controversy surrounding competitions – are the results accurate or completely random.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 19 1/2 minutes long and takes up almost 19 megabytes. The sound quality is good, though there are a couple of spots where some outside noise gets in the way.

Winecast 25: Nick Vorpagel, Lake Geneva Country Meats

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Nick VorpagelHow do the best independent retailers do it? That’s the idea behind today’s podcast with Nick Vorpagel, the third generation at one of my favorite independent wine shops (and the brats aren’t bad, either), Lake Geneva Country Meats in the Wisconsin resort town.

And how does a a butcher shop evolve into a a top-flight wine retailer? We talked about that, as well as Nick’s very brief time in law school; which parts of the world offer the best wine value; and the increase in interest in a Wine Curmudgeon favorite, chenin blanc. Nick also offered some of his best wine values and the best piece of advice for wine drinkers: If you want to learn about wine, you need to drink it. And don’t miss the bit about cutting red wine with water.

Finally, what makes a great wine shop? Nick’s answer is simple: It’s about selling the customer the wine that makes them happy, and not the wine that makes the retailer happy.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 13 1/2 minutes long and takes up 13 megabytes. The sound quality is good, though there are a couple of spots where it fades in and out and Skype wasn’t up to its usual standards (had to record the podcast a second time, in fact).

Winecast 24: Joe Roberts, 1 Wine Dude

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joe robertsJoe Roberts helped revolutionize wine writing, becoming the first wine blogger with a reach, an audience, and reputation that equaled many print writers. Not surprisingly, he came to wine from a successful business career, unburdened by most of the wine foolishness that hampers the rest of us.

I’ve known Joe since he attended our Drink Local Wine conference in Denver in 2012, and he has always displayed an open mind, a willingness to try something he has never tried before, and an understanding that just because he likes something doesn’t mean everyone else will or should like it. As he says in the podcast, “I tend to drink wines that score lower on my own scale. … I don’t care. It’s delicious.”

Among the other topics we discussed:

• Wine is not one size fits all. This is something, he says, that is difficult for most people in the wine business to understand, trapped as they are by the three-tier system and the complex laws that regulate wine sales. In this, Joe says with a laugh, wine producers, retailers, and distributors have to pay more attention to what he writes about their product than what consumers think about it. How many other businesses does that happen in?

• The pants analogy, which I’m going to steal: That when we buy pants, we trust our taste, our sense, our style — no Pants Spectator, no scores, no tasting notes. The goal, then, is to help consumers reach that same level of confidence with wine. Or, as he said, “No one freaks out in the mustard aisle.”

• It’s easier to get to that confidence level than ever before, with more resources for consumers, whether on-line with writers like us, friends, or social media. “If you find a bottle of wine that you enjoy, and you’re happy you’re not getting ripped off, than you’re doing OK.”

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 18 minutes long and takes up 8 1/2 megabytes. The sound quality is very good, and Skype — the unofficial VoIP provider for the blog — was in exceptionally fine form for the third consecutive podcast.

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