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Expensive wine 65: Alain Hudelot-Noellat Chambolle-Musigny 2003

The Wine Curmudgeon long ago accepted the fact he would never get to taste most of the world’s great wines. Even if I could afford them, what with prices like $500 for Read More »

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Mini-reviews 63: Da Vinci, Fetzer, Villa Maria, Santa Cristina

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. • Da Vinci Chianti Read More »

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Are you a wine snob?

The cyber-ether has been abuzz with accusations of wine snobbery, and even Blake Gray — who recently shared a bottle of $10 South African chenin blanc with me — has been accused Read More »

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Winebits 343: Dave McIntyre, wine scores, and wine in the movies

• More than well deserved: Who knew the Wine Curmudgeon would know someone who had won the same award as a Mondavi? Or the legendary Konstantin Frank, without whom U.S. regional wine Read More »

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James Garner on wine writing

James Garner, who died over the weekend, was perhaps the best TV actor of his generation. He brought intelligence, charm, and wit to a medium that makes those qualities difficult to convey. Read More »

Wine of the week: Sara Bee Moscato NV

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sara bee moscato Sweet wine is not easy to review, and this doesn’t even take into account that a lot of sweet wine isn’t worth reviewing — poorly made, sweeter than Coke, and as cynical as a carnival barker. Many of the Wine Curmudgeon’s readers — half? more? — will skip this review in annoyance and some will even cancel their email subscription in disgust.

But let it not be said that I am easily intimidated.

The Italian Sara Bee Moscato ($7, purchased, 5.5%) is one of the best sweet wines I’ve tasted in years, and especially at this price. Yes, it’s sweet — probably somewhere around a high-end soft drink like Jones Soda — but there is plenty of orange fruit aroma, common to the moscato grape, apricot, some wonderful “fermentato,” which translates into light, fun bubbles, and even a bit of crispness (usually missing in most sweet wines at this price).

I drank it with some delicately-spiced Indian takeout, and the sweetness correctly played off the spice. It would also work as a dessert wine; something with chocolate, perhaps? Sweet wine drinkers, of course, won’t bother with any of that. Chill it well, add an ice cube or two if you want, and enjoy.

So what’s the catch? The Sara Bee is made by Santero, a dependable producer of grocery-store priced Italian sparkling wine, but this is a private label for the Trader Joe’s chain. This means two things: Trying to get information about the wine is almost impossible, since Trader Joe’s doesn’t like to return phone calls, and you can’t buy it anywhere else. If you’re in a state without a Trader Joe’s or one that doesn’t sell wine — in New York and Pennsylvania, for instance — you’re out of luck.

This is a $10 Hall of Fame wine, but because of the availability problems, I probably won’t add it next year. But if you have $7, are near a Trader Joe’s that sells wine, and are curious about the Sara Bee, don’t hesitate to try it.

Winebits 343: Dave McIntyre, wine scores, and wine in the movies

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Dave McIntyre

That’s Dave in the middle, and he should be smiling.

More than well deserved: Who knew the Wine Curmudgeon would know someone who had won the same award as a Mondavi? Or the legendary Konstantin Frank, without whom U.S. regional wine would not have been possible? But that’s my pal Dave McIntyre, who was given the Monteith Trophy over the weekend for his work as a wine writer. Dave has done much for the cause of wine, including co-founding Drink Local Wine with me when people thought we were crazy. So it’s more than time that the wine world recognized the effort Dave has made, not only for regional wine, but for wine drinkers everywhere. Dave will be in Dallas in a couple of weeks, and I have laid in some Texas wine that we will celebrate with. Congratulations, my friend. But couldn’t you have worn a tie for a big deal like this?

End the tyranny: Or so says Michael Woodsmall at the Grape Collective, calling for an end to the 100-point scoring system. “It should be duly noted that these scales don’t take actual wine’s nuanced characteristics into account; they merely assigned values to general traits. … Also, it is no longer the seventies and eighties.”  This sentiment is something the Wine Curmudgeon has long advocated, and Woodsmall makes an intelligent argument for the end of scores, even throwing in a little political theory to explain why the debate generates such controversy. This is a revolution, and the scoreists will defend the ancien regime until the bitter end.

Hollywood and wine: The Wine Curmudgeon, in discussing U.S. wine culture in the cheap wine book, talked about Hollywood’s complete indifference to wine for most of the 20th century, and how this indifference reflected American views of wine. So I was more than pleased to see an academic study of the subject, supporting my views. Raphael Schirmer of the University of Bordeaux, writing for the American Association of Wine Economists, has found that as wine has become more popular in the U.S., so has wine become more popular in film. This is not just about Francis Ford Coppola owning a major wine company or movies like “Sideways;” rather, it’s the idea that we drink wine as part of our everyday lives, and the movies that are made reflect this.

James Garner on wine writing

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james garnerJames Garner, who died over the weekend, was perhaps the best TV actor of his generation. He brought intelligence, charm, and wit to a medium that makes those qualities difficult to convey. In the 1950s, “Maverick” did for the western what Monty Python did for humor, redefining how to look at the genre. In the 1970s, “The Rockford Files” took the private detective, a tired and worn out format, and gave it new life.

So what does that have to do with wine and writing? Consider this, from Garner’s autobiography:

 “I’m a Methodist but not as an actor. I’m from the Spencer Tracy school: be on time, know your words, hit your marks, and tell the truth. I don’t have any theories abut acting, and I don’t think about how to do it, except that an actor shouldn’t take himself too seriously, and shouldn’t try to make acting something that it isn’t. Acting is just common sense. It isn’t hard if you put yourself aside and just do what the writer wrote.”

Substitute wine writing for acting, and the point is clear: We’re not better or more talented than other wine drinkers. We’re just more professional about it. And the minute we take ourselves too seriously, we lose sight of what we’re supposed to be doing. And wine writing is not supposed to be difficult, though so many of us try so hard to make it difficult.

A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to my pal John Bratcher, a reformed actor, for pointing out the relationship between Garner’s words and wine writing.

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