castles and lady kissers

Friday, October 29, 2010

Maybe Oz Clarke or Tom Stevenson or Jancis Robinson – British wine writers who seem to have explored every conceivable obscure corner of the wine world – rarely if ever happen upon an unfamiliar wine. But I am not a member of those rarefied ranks, and so the pleasures of discovery are undiminished.

By unfamiliar I do not mean an unknown producer. There are plenty of those no matter who you are. But an unknown region, or an unknown type of wine from a familiar region? That’s where the fun often begins.

a word from the author of 1100

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The response to my Monday blog has been gratifying. Many are in agreement with me, but certainly not all, as you can see from the lengthy rebuttals posted by Paul Beveridge, who is the prime mover behind a group called Family Wineries of Washington.

But I also heard from Stefan Sharkansky, who tells me he is the author of the initiative, and has offered further background on its development. I indicated to both of these gentlemen that I have planted my flag and cast my vote, but in the interest of fairness and continued dialogue, I am turning the forum over to Stefan for today. Here is his post:

a very reluctant vote on 1100

Monday, October 25, 2010

The most important and rewarding aspect to writing this blog is the dialogue it engenders, and nothing has brought that dialogue into play for me more significantly than the ongoing struggle to analyze Initiative 1100. Over the weekend, in response to my two most recent posts, three individuals who I have known for many years, and whose opinions I greatly respect, have contacted me to offer their (very different and well-considered) perspectives. All three are opposed to 1100.

I have been right on the verge of writing “hold your nose and vote yes.” I want to send a message, and I think a lot of other voters do too.

the debate on 1100 - pro and con

Friday, October 22, 2010

Based on the lively discussion on my Facebook page (see link above) as well as dozens of posts and numerous articles on other blogs and websites, I think I’ve been able to compile a pretty good list of arguments pro and con for 1100. I am going to focus on that initiative, as I believe it is the more important of the two, and also more likely to pass. If you are not yet clear about the language and intent of 1100, there are many sources other than this blog to find that information. The comments below are accurate quotes and have not been modified or altered in any way that affects their meaning. After each quote I’ll post my own (PG) response.

First, the arguments against 1100:

a murky future for washington wineries

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I am still pondering… I will soon make a final decision on a recommendation for or against the WSLCB-busting initiative 1100, but it ain’t easy! My colleagues Sean Sullivan ( and Mike Veseth ( have done extensive analysis on the issues and I strongly recommend reading their posts. Mike is still on the fence with 1100, concerned primarily with the impact on public health and safety problems. Sean has already come out opposed, apparently because of a strong dislike for the entire initiative system.

wine enthusiast top 100 best buys of 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Wine Enthusiast, for whom I have been privileged to write for the past 12 years, has published the first of its year-end ‘Best Of’ lists, and once again, Washington wineries have scored bigtime.

I am especially pleased with this year’s showing, for several reasons.

e-mail of the week: one less reason to talk

Friday, October 15, 2010

I get well over 150 e-mails daily, most of it PR blather – the mulch and fodder of my otherwise insular profession. So I have a certain amount of pity, mixed with an odd sort of admiration, for those who relentless labor over this drivel. Here is the all-too-rare missive that brings some genuinely jaw-dropping prose to the challenge. It has been unchanged except for the removal of a couple of identifying names.

It begins with this beguiling headline: “Sip & Tit: One less reason to talk”

a piece of walla walla winemaking history

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

As I live just a few miles outside of Walla Walla, now home to something like 130 wineries, I am often asked by people who are planning a quick trip over to recommend wineries to visit. Tough question, I usually reply. What type of wine do you enjoy? How much driving do you want to do? Where have you been before? Etc.

But I have no problem recommending a new winery, whose first releases were just officially introduced this past weekend, as a must-see. Tero Estates (or is it TeRo Estates? – not sure) is the winery, and here is why it goes right to the top of the don’t miss list.

how ripe is ripe enough?

Monday, October 11, 2010

The 2010 vintage is providing some unusual challenges to winemakers and grape growers up and down the coast. In the Willamette valley the harvest has barely begun. In Washington, merlot and syrah is coming in from Red Mountain and a few other warmer sites. Walla Walla vineyards (especially down in the flat) have had more than their fair share of rain – a real gullywasher just yesterday.

rating the bloggers

Friday, October 08, 2010

My website/blog is now – and always has been – ad free. In fact, I work very hard to make it clutter-free. Instead of linking to hundreds of other wine blogs, which is the formula for garnering more eyeballs and higher ratings, I link to just those few that I personally read and find most rewarding. I have an rss feed and a Facebook and Twitter link, but that’s about it for clutter. I have worked very hard at designing an easy-to-scan, no b.s. look and feel. Hopefully, you readers find it to be just that.

I point this out not to pat myself on the back, but to mention that, as a result of these decisions, this blog generates not one cent of income. And since it does not, and furthermore has been essentially designed to make it impossible to monetize, I have not paid much attention to blog ratings.

I know that there are various metrics that can be used, and various enterprises that can tell you how you are doing, but so far I have not really had a grip on any of that, other than the occasional PG post that rises to the top of the daily/weekly/monthly rankings.

The other day I received this note, from a ranking service called Wikio.

the last great winemaking challenge

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A couple of days ago I was poking around in the wine cellar and pulled an assortment of wines that made for a very interesting comparison tasting. Loosely organized around a Rhône blend theme, it included a pair of wines from California, one from Oregon and the fourth from the actual Rhône. I left Washington out because, well, just because. Sometimes even I need a break from Washington.

All four circled around a $30 price point – expensive enough to ramp up the quality expectations, but neither rare nor over the top price-wise. What was I looking for?

Quality, first and foremost. Regional typicity next. Some marks of distinction. And maybe a surprise or two. I found all of the above.

thumbing his nose at washington?

Monday, October 04, 2010

My friend and colleague Steve Heimoff, who, like me, writes for the Wine Enthusiast and serves on its tasting panel, has fired a major shot across the Washington bow with his Friday blog entry. Headlined “Washington State: a hard sell”, the thrust of his remarks seemed to be summed up with these few lines.

celebrating national sake day

Friday, October 01, 2010

Though I have been assured by the kind people at Vine Connections, an importer of Argentine wines and Japanese sake, that October 1st is “Sake Day” in Japan, I confess that verification has eluded me.

In fact, the front page of today’s Japan Times makes no reference to sake, though there is a compelling photo of a baby monkey named Miwa riding a wild boar named Uribo at the Fukuchiyama City Zoo. (Perhaps after having just a little too much sake???).