Over the holiday weekend, I received an important public service announcement from a health-minded friend. I pass it along to you, my fearless readers, knowing that ‘tis the season for massive consumption of refreshing beverages. Hopefully, this will save at least one of you from a potentially fatal error in judgment. It reads:
Pretty much all of my life, my birthday has fallen on December 22nd. It's not the date I would have chosen – in fact, it's not the date I was supposed to show up on this planet (I was six weeks early). But it's my date, and there is a lot of positive spin to it. As Mrs. G points out, in her inimitable optimism, it's the first day of spring! Well, in the sense that the days are now getting longer again, having turned the solstice corner.
It's also a day that is close enough to the end of the year that it inspires reflection. What has the year that is about to wrap out brought in terms of blessings, lessons, friendships, opportunities, dreams, challenges? What are my plans and goals for the new year ahead? These are the thoughts that will occupy me in these waning days of 2010, which will happily be filled with the love and friendship of those most near and dear to me.
I am, by trade, a wine critic. In my own account, I am also a journalist, an educator, a historian, an editor, above all, a chronicler of a fascinating place and time in the evolution of the global wine industry. But to most readers I am a critic, because I am privileged to work for a publication that reviews wines using the 100 point scale.
Has any critical yardstick in any medium on any topic ever been more reviled?
Two promotional wine and food events were on my calendar last night, and as the evening played out, they rather neatly defined the very best and very worst of PR efforts.
Early in the evening one of my favorite Seattle wine bars – The Local Vine – hosted a “Sparkling Wine Celebration”. The invitation came via e-mail well in advance, promising guests “the opportunity to taste Grand Marque Champagnes, Grower Champagnes, California sparkling, Spanish Cava and other hard-to-find effervescent selections from around the world.” It spoke of complimentary hors d’oeuvres, and special prices on all the wines being poured. The event was also open to the public (at $55 per person).
Along with the general press release came this note from the PR organizer:
Based on the buzz they receive, the ever-proliferating, year-end, Top 100 “Best of…” lists are a hit. The wineries listed feel as if they’ve hit the jackpot, and the trade is happy to capitalize on anything that says a wine is “special.” Consumers and readers with a particular interest in certain wineries are drawn to these lists like toast to butter.
But there is a downside, and I’ve been chewing on it, since putting out my own Top 100 last week. To put it simply, it is foolish to think that any Top 100 list is really what it says it is – the one hundred best wines out of a tasting pool of thousands. Efforts to winnow it down, as I do by focusing exclusively on Washington wines, are only partially successful.
A story in today’s
New York Times spotlights wine clubs, which have become ubiquitous. Newspapers, magazines, rock bands, even fruit peddlers Harry & David have started wine clubs. To my jaded eyes, when you toss in all the online wine sellers, not to mention all the winery direct clubs and mailing lists, it’s looking a little cluttered out there.
I began blogging almost four years ago, shortly after attending the Napa Valley Wine Writers Symposium in February of 2007. Blogging was still new then, a bit mysterious, and to an old print journalist like me it seemed peripheral at best. But I thought it wise to dip a toe into the waters, as I have with virtually every type of medium since I began working in radio in my college years.
Blogging has been far more challenging and rewarding than I ever imagined. I have had two false starts (poor design and execution) and one complete meltdown (accidentally wiped out the entire blog and its history). But for almost two years now, I’ve been doing Unfined & Unfiltered with considerable regularity, and followed other leading wine blogs as they too have evolved and begun to grope their way toward some communal meta-blog.
The last of the season’s major ‘Top 100’ lists is out today. Wine Enthusiast magazine, for whom I am the Northwest editor and tasting panelist, has already published its Top 100 Best Buys and Top 100 Cellar Selections. Washington wines did quite well, as noted in previous blog posts. But the ultimate Top 100 list – the best wines of the year from around the world – is the crème de la crème. And I am thrilled to say that no less than 10 Washington wines are on this last, most prestigious list.
The wines, with their rank, score and suggested retail price:
Each year at this time, I compile a personal Top 100 list, published in the Seattle Times. In fact, it was a suggestion from the publisher of the newspaper that first inspired the idea. It is the only list that focuses exclusively on wines made with Washington fruit – though there are occasional, rare exceptions (notably this year’s #1 wine), allowing for the shared appellations of Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Valley, and Columbia Gorge.
In the new edition of my book, the four previous Top 100 lists have been published, and the new 2010 list came out in yesterday’s Seattle Times. Here I am showing the wines with the scores that they have received in my exclusive reviews for Wine Enthusiast magazine.
Big wine weekends are happening at both ends of the state this weekend, and travelers to any wine region are sure to be rewarded with plenty of holiday cheer, new releases, special sales, and other delights.
Walla Walla is celebrating the 13th annual Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend, with dozens of wineries opening their doors and welcoming visitors.
The old Beach Boys tune is running through my head, for no particular reason. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older, then we wouldn’t have to wait so long…” Well, that harks back to a far more innocent age, when high school sweethearts actually did have to wait, but that’s a topic for another blog (unfined, unfiltered, and unf••ked).
Today, let’s play a wouldn’t it be nice game for the upcoming year in wine! I’ll get you started, then please chime in.