Tag Archives: wine writing

Winebits 412: Birthday week odds and ends


Birthday week Approaching 2,500 posts: Or, 2,423, counting this one. A little less than one-third of those have been wine reviews in eight years, which probably isn’t enough to make Google happy. On the other hand, only two percent have been wine rants, which makes me wonder why I haven’t written more. It’s not like there isn’t enough to rant about, and I probably could have written two percent of the blog with just rants just about the three-tier system.

Where wine rarely goes: The geographic breadth of blog users never fails to amaze me — 173 countries this year, including four from Nepal. The Nepalese, given that none of the wine I write about can possibly be available there, deserve some sort of prize. Or maybe they appreciate great wine writing? The U.S. is the top country, not surprisingly, but with only 87.3 percent, which means that more than 1 out of every 10 visitors comes from outside the country.  And though California is the top state, more than 83 percent of visitors come from the rest of the U.S. That does make me think I’m doing some good, despite any gloom to the contrary over the past year.

My poor beloved Linux: Perhaps someone with more tech chops can explain why the various metrics track visitors by operating system, which I appreciate but don’t understand. Having said that, just one percent of the visitors came to the blog via Linux, and that’s probably me. Still, that’s three times as many as Windows Phone, which says more than any rant about Microsoft. The top operating system was Windows at 35 percent, but that’s just a couple of points better than the Apple phone. Maybe there’s something to this mobile thing?

The Wine Curmudgeon most popular posts 2015

wine curmudgeon

Change your logo as much as you want, but you’re still screwing up my site.

The Wine Curmudgeon blog has a new editor/publisher, but I knew nothing about it until I compiled the top 10 most popular posts from the past 12 months. It’s Google, which now decides what you read on the blog. I can try all I want — and I try very hard — to write relevant, informative, and helpful content, but my efforts matter less and less. That’s because Google directs people to the posts it decides are the most important, and for the first time in the blog’s history, those aren’t necessarily the posts I consider the most important.

Case in point: The top post from November 2014 to November 2015 was a five-year-old effort about Barefoot wine that didn’t make the top 10 last year. It’s bad enough that Google sent readers to the blog for something that wasn’t current, but the Barefoot post replaced the $10 Hall of Fame — my reason for being — as the most popular post.

Ain’t the Internet grand?

Almost none of the stuff that I wrote over the past 12 months that should have been in the top 20 was. None of the stuff that I thought was clever or funny made the top 20. Just old wine reviews — literally. Seven of the 10 best read posts over the last year were reviews of wines from 2014 or before.

This, for a writer, is as depressing as it gets, not unlike someone telling Michelangelo that the Sistine Chapel is nice, but an estimate for painting the house would be even better. What’s the point of reporting, and then crafting and sweating over a piece, when Google says not to bother because no one wants to read it? The search giant equates popularity with trust, so it sends people to the most popular posts because its algorithm says they’re the most trusted. Because, of course, they’re the most popular. That this is the Internet version of a Catch-22 doesn’t seem to matter.

Even the good news, that my traffic recovered in 2015 from the slump caused by Google’s ever-changing search methods and from revamping the website two years ago, was depressing. I’m getting more than 51,000 visitors — that’s visitors, not page views — a month, an amazing number for a one-person site. But what’s the point if they’re coming here to read stuff that doesn’t necessarily matter anymore?

Not to worry, though, if you like the stuff no one else does. I won’t change the blog’s format just because an algorithm says I should. Everyone should know me better than that by now. The most popular posts from 2015, plus a couple of other notes, are after the jump:

A Halloween wine tale 2015: I am Legend


i am legendThe afternoon was cloudy, and Robert Neville didn’t know how long he had until dark. Because he had a lot of work to do – he had made 47 stakes.

It hadn’t always been like this. Before the war and the plague and the dust storms, when Virginia and Kathy were alive and people lived on Cimarron Street, life was normal. Or it had seemed that way, driving to work with Ben Cortman, having dinner with Virginia and a nice $10 bottle of wine, and enjoying the weekend barbecues with the other families on Cimarron Street.

Cortman, who lived a couple of house down, always knew where to get the best wine deals. He could find a terrific Sicilian red or a Spanish white or even a French rose for as little as $8, and when Neville asked him how he did it, Cortman would smile and make his usual bad joke: “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

Which, of course, is what Cortman was trying to do now. Neville, his 47 stakes driven into 47 lifeless but not dead bodies, was barricaded in the house on Cimarron Street, waiting for daybreak. He had barred the windows, even boarded them up, had reinforced and bolted the doors, and surrounded all with so much garlic that the stench was a permanent part of his life.

Still, the noise from the hundreds of people – if you could call them that – was deafening, and it seemed to get louder every night. Neville knew he must soundproof a room soon; otherwise, the howling was going to make him even crazier than he was afraid he already was.

“Come out, Neville!” Cortman was screaming like he did every night. “We’re ready for you, Neville. We have our Napa cabs and our Super Tuscans, and they all got 98 points. Don’t you want some?”


Neville didn’t remember exactly when the plague started. But he remembered the results – people who had thought Bogle was a splurge bringing cult 15 ½ percent pinot noirs to the barbecues, Cortman subscribing to every wine magazine he could find and talking about cigar box aromas and dusty tannins, and Virginia – God, his sweet, gentle Virginia – telling him to pry open his wallet to buy some wine that actually had flavors she could taste.

Neville, though, seemed immune from the plague. He had been stationed in France during the war, and maybe it was the vin ordinaire he had drunk. All he knew was that as the world went high alcohol and over-extracted around him, all he wanted was a little terroir.

So he made stakes, lots and lots of stakes.


They still came every night, Cortman and their wailing about $2,000 first growths, but Neville had accepted it. It was them and the end of wine as he loved it, or his daylight bloodletting. There didn’t seem to be a choice.

And then one morning, after he had cleaned out a particularly nasty den, with dozens of empty bottles of 97-pointers and wine magazine back issues open to the tasting notes, he saw her.

She was sitting at a table in the park in daylight, drinking what looked like a Gascon white blend, and reading the book with the green bottle and the brown hat on the cover. And it was daylight. Neville blinked, couldn’t believe what he saw, and then ran screaming toward her. Could it be? Could there be someone else?


Her name was Ruth, and she said all the right things. She had been to Italy, had acquired her immunity there, had been running and hiding since the plague started. The same thing had happened to her husband and two sons that had happened to Virginia and Kathy.

Still, Neville wasn’t sure. Maybe it was the way she seemed to be forcing down those 12 percent whites, as if drinking them hurt her. Maybe it was the way she did say all the right things, as if she knew that’s what he needed to hear. But she was out in the daylight. How could that be if she was one of them?


When the end came, Neville wasn’t surprised. “I never really believed you,” he told Ruth.

Ruth and her colleagues, most of whom wrote about wine on the Internet, had captured him that morning. They had mutated, had adapted to the plague the way human beings have always adapted. They could live in the light, but they weren’t like Neville.

“It’s better this way,” she said. “Your time is past. We’re going to remake the wine world, so that there is room for everyone, whether you want to spend $10 or $20 or even $50. Even if I don’t like high alcohol, isn’t it OK if someone else does?”

Neville smiled. He could see the others, standing behind Ruth, crowding to get a glimpse of him. And then, before they led him to his death, as he watched them, he realized why they feared – and maybe even admired – him: “I am legend.”

A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to the late Richard Matheson. He was a brilliant horror writer who is too little known to mainstream audiences, no doubt because “I am Legend” was turned into three crappy movies, and whose work included the William Shatner Twilight Zone, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” “I am Legend” is not only a first-rate horror story, but its paranoid, noir style speaks to the Cold War era when it was written.

For more Halloween wine tales:
A Halloween wine tale 2014: Frankenstein
A Halloween wine tale 2013: Dracula

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