squeeze me gift me!

Monday, November 29, 2010

I've been blessed with some very favorable reviews for my new book in recent weeks, and in the holiday spirit of shameless promotion I've compiled quotes from all of them. The next few weeks are critical as far as commercial success for this book is concerned, as it is gift-giving time and it's brand new. Despite a cover that is quite similar to the first edition, this is a New Book! Double the winery entries, all re-written extensively. Double the vineyard entries, all updated. All new recos – grape by grape – for the top producers. I hope you will consider it as a holiday gift for that wine geek person in your life!

Here are the reviews:

choosing and serving wine (circa 1955)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a particular fascination for old, obscure, out of print wine books, and love to thumb through them to see what the wine wisdom of days gone by had to say. Thanks to a very generous gift from a Seattle reader, I have come into a stash of excellent books published between 50 and 60 years ago, many in Great Britain.

The book pictured here dates to 1955, and is smaller (by about an inch in length) than today's pocket guides, though far less dense and without all the annoying symbols. I have no idea who the author Raymond Postgate may have been, other than what little this book tells of him. An author of biographies and detective stories, he also wrote occasionally on food and wine. His brief introduction to this little gem advises the prospective reader that "it is not a connected account of wine, its appreciation, qualities, origins and use... it is a utensil, a tool like a saucepan or a colander though I hope a more entertaining one."

I happened upon an entry for American wines that contains a nice little rant about the damage done by Prohibition:

the turducken song

Monday, November 22, 2010

My birthday is December 22nd, just a month away, and though it is precariously close to Christmas, it has usually been the occasion for a very fine party with copious amounts of friends, wines, and food. I’ve been thinking over some of my favorite parties of the past, and came upon a little ditty I wrote for the 1996 birthday party.

I seem to recall that the Wall Street Journal (which I was reading at the time, being on a stock market high with the rest of the world) had run an article on turducken. It’s a Louisiana dish, which debones a chicken, a duck, and a turkey, stuffs one inside the other, and packs the in-between spaces with various types of stuffing (crawdad being de rigeur).

attention champagne drinkers – marie antoinette's boobs are back!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Some years ago, Georg Riedel had a revelation, and it changed our wine consumption habits as dramatically as the “discovery” of varietal labeling. Riedel’s inspired innovation was the premise – which he has successfully demonstrated to tens of thousands of cynics (such as yours truly) around the globe – that the shape of the wine glass actually impacts the flavor of the wine it holds.

As cockeyed as that assertion seems, it is true. And you don’t need to own Riedels to prove it. Take any six glasses – all different – and pour the same wine in each. I’ve done this with every imaginable combination, including cheap tumblers and the best Sommelier Series stemware. The wine will in fact taste and smell different in each.

Like many others when first presented with this astonishing news, I rushed out to buy sets of Riedels for all my favorite wines. Over the years, as more and more options were offered, it became impossible to keep up. And something else happened.

charity or wretched excess?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This past Monday a story from wire service AFP circulated online recounting the results of a truffle auction held over the weekend in the northern Italian Barolo stronghold of Alba. Now, your run-of-the-mill mushroom sales fail to generate much interest from the international wine and fungus community, but this one did so. It was headlined “S. Korean wine critic buys 105,000-euro truffle.” The story went on the report that the 900 gram truffle (that is almost exactly two pounds) was sold to Jeannie Cho Lee, an MW and wine critic living in Hong Kong.

I don’t know if there is a buyer’s fee placed on top of the winning bid, which rounds out to $144,000, but however you slice it, that’s a lot of dough for a mushroom. As an alternative, at $18 a jar, that same money would buy you 8000 jars of truffle salt, which I for one am more than happy to use in place of the actual fungus (and thereby calculate that I am saving about $143,982 a year).

farewell hosemaster of wine

Monday, November 15, 2010

For some months I have been nervously checking on the HoseMaster of Wine website, sommelier Ron Washam’s on-again off-again exercise in vinous exorcism. Humor is all too rare in the wine blogosphere, and Washam, who for a time wrote comedy professionally, excelled at it. His HoseMaster’s Honest Guide To Grapes feature, among many others, will still bring tears to my eyes every time I look at it. His scathing attacks on wine bloggers – or poodles, as he labeled them – won few friends, but hit the mark more often than not.

So it was with increasing concern that I noted no new entries as the months rolled by, and finally, unable to wait any longer, I sent Washam an e-mail asking what’s up? He wrote back immediately:

e-mail of the week – happiness is a warm pfaffl

Friday, November 12, 2010

Headlined “Irrational”, this most entertaining newsletter was e-mailed to me by Austria’s Weingut Pfaffl. I share it with you uncut and unedited.

It is time to tell you a little story. The story of our Heidrom. It is redwine, but what souds that simple, is something that needs great efforts, much time, enough patience and some overcoming. It is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Both grape varieties grow here in the southern Weinviertel region, to the north of Vienna. Sounds weird, considering that this region is famous for its Grüner Veltliners. And it is weird.

spoiled rotten

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In addition to this blog, I do much more wine writing for print publications, and my regular Wine Adviser column, which runs on Sundays in the Seattle Times, gets quite a lot of feedback. Last Sunday I wrote about Washington chardonnays, and praised two in particular – Abeja and Woodward Canyon.

Now, I’ve been doing this a long time, and I know that newspaper readers by and large don’t want to spend more than $10 - $12 on a bottle of wine. So when I am profiling more expensive wines, I almost always include less expensive recommendations as well. But readers have other quibbles besides how expensive wines are.

the art and design of contemporary wine labels

Monday, November 08, 2010

Tis the season of new wine books, and many have crossed my path in the past couple of months. Here’s one that I believe has immense appeal outside the ranks of the wine-obsessed, yet will wrangle their attention also. It’s titled “The Art and Design of Contemporary Wine Labels,” written by Tanya Scholes, a resident of Toronto with an advertising and graphic design background. The publisher is Santa Monica Press. (The book lists for $45 but Amazon has it in stock and priced just under $30.)

wine enthusiast top 100 cellar selections for 2010

Friday, November 05, 2010

Part two of the year end “Top 100” lists published by The Wine Enthusiast covers the Top 100 Cellar Selections. I am always eager to see which Northwest wineries are on this list, because in some sense it is the most exclusive. To qualify as a Cellar Selection, a wine must be exceptionally ageworthy. These are the most structured, complex, compact and detailed wines from among all the new releases. I have not run the numbers, but I would guesstimate that for my own reviews at least, there are fewer wines with this designation than any other; it's a mark of special quality.

demon alcohol is baaaaack!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Just when you thought it was safe to enjoy that glass of wine with dinner, a wave of horror headlines has tsunamied across the internet. “Alcohol More Dangerous Than Heroin!” says NPR, where it is the number one most read story of the past few days. “Alcohol ‘most harmful drug,’ followed by crack and heroin” writes CNN. The story, out of London, has been picked up by newspapers and online news sites all over the world. And it’s true... sort of... well, not actually...

prime time wines from barnard griffin

Monday, November 01, 2010

You know how some of your favorite bands never seem to crack the big time? They have the tunes, the flash, the live show… but they don’t break through. Same with wineries. There are some wineries that do everything right, but don’t get the acclaim that it seems that they should. Why is that? "Blame it on a simple twist of fate." Whatever else you may think about such random acts of unkindness, I can tell you this – those under-praised wineries are the ones to look for, because they give you great wines at non-cult prices. And here’s one from Washington.