how much is that doggie in the costco?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a BIG problem. It didn’t seem big at first, but as time went by, it grew and grew. The problem was this. Many of the people owned puppies. Puppies were everywhere. Cute, bouncy, bubbly puppies. Puppy vendors sprouted up in every neighborhood. And the people who wanted to buy a puppy could go to the corner puppy store and get their puppy without any trouble.

But soon the puppy poop started to accumulate. There were piles and piles. The streets were slimed. The street cleaners couldn’t keep up with it, and it was costing a lot of money. And so legislation was passed, regulating the sale of puppies. All puppies had to be sold via the government. Only the government could determine which types of puppies were to be sold, and special stores were opened – owned and operated by the government – to sell puppies.

Many years passed, and the system seemed to work. The puppy stores still sold lots of puppies – though they couldn’t sell doggie treats or leashes or water dishes. The government felt that would be a conflict of interest, and might lead people to buy more than just one puppy, which could become a problem.

wine enthusiast top 100 cellar selections for 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

I have just received the December 1 issue of Wine Enthusiast, and eagerly went immediately to the Top 100 Cellar Selections article. This is the second of three Top 100 lists that the magazine publishes at the end of the year, and I am especially pleased that my reviews of Washington and Oregon wines have led to exceptional showings for the region in recent years.

This newest list continues the streak. In some sense, the Cellar Selections list 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 reviewed in the past 12 months.

my vote on initiative 1183

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I’m going to lay out the thinking behind my vote on Initiative 1183. For those of you who have been in an Italian jail for the past four years, or have only recently moved to Washington state, here is all the background you need. Or at least all the background I need. Quite honestly, I’m sick of the whole debate. I am not nearly wonk enough to wade through all the conflicting claims made by the major sponsor (Costco) and the major opponents (the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America) in their ads.

What I have done is looked at who has what to gain, and who is endorsing or opposing the Initiative. Yes, there are some unknowns as to how it will play out, but they seem to have provided fodder for gross exaggerations and fear-mongering, especially on the opponent side.

the dreaded styrofoam wine shippers

Sunday, October 23, 2011

More than a decade ago, I began sending out this request with my basic wine shipping address and contact information. Please – No styrofoam!!! I pleaded. Use cardboard shippers. Do not use any form of popcorn, even the stuff that is biodegradable.

At the time, believe it or not, this was revolutionary. I had only seen a couple of examples of recycled cardboard shippers. But I was already FED UP with the styrofoam stuff. A few boxes (about a day’s worth of samples) would fill up the trunk of my car. I’d collect them and drive them to wine shops that would re-use them for shipping wine to someone else, who’d then be stuck with them. Kind of like the Christmas fruitcake that gets passed from house to house every year.

what i hate (about wine) from a to z

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

With apologies to Roz Chast, whose new book is pictured above and who has given me more good chuckles than any other cartoonist past or present, I offer you my A to Z list of what I hate about wine. Please notice the tongue in cheek; I only wish I could do the drawings to go with my list. Roz, are you out there?

introducing abacela’s gran reserva – paramour

Monday, October 17, 2011

Yesterday afternoon I popped the cork on a bottle of Abacela 2005 Paramour, which is being officially released to the world today. I have followed the efforts of Abacela’s Earl and Hilda Jones almost since their very first wines were released more than a decade ago. And I have never failed to be impressed with their vision, dedication, and (at times) dogged efforts to pioneer the cultivation of Iberian grapes – notably tempranillo – in southern Oregon’s Umpqua valley.

“We moved here to make this wine” is the opening quote from Earl Jones on the one-sheet that accompanied the bottle. In a phone call a week or so ago he elaborated on that thought.

a mixed bag of this ‘n’ that

Friday, October 14, 2011

About.... FACE!

Prominent in the news is a minor flap in Oregon, begun by an ill-timed pronouncement from the OSU Extension Service. Apparently, it was intended solely for home wine growers.

Headlined “Oregon Appears to be on the Brink of its Worst Wine Grape Harvest Since the Vineyard Industry Started a few Decades Ago”, it set off a firestorm of statistical retorts.

The cries of outrage could be heard from Ashland to Astoria, which prompted a follow-up press release from the OSU College of Ag Sciences headlined “Cool Weather Could be an Advantage to this year’s Oregon Wine Vintage.”

oh mighty grape fairy, shine your light on our vines!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A lot of praying is going on in wine country these days (along with nail biting and floor pacing and a fair amount of expletives not being deleted). I'm considering a revision of the part of my book that boasts about Washington's harvests, guaranteed to be sunny and rain free. Not this one.

Washington suffers from weather tribulations, notably freezes, on a fairly regular basis. In just the past few years I've seen a variety of ill-timed weather, including a deep freeze early in 2004 that wiped out much of that year's crop; a Halloween freeze in 2006 that dropped temperatures into the low teens; an early October freeze a couple of years ago and a Thanksgiving freeze last year, both of which took their toll on certain locations.

But I have never seen a fall so wet, so cool and so cloudy as this one.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Six years ago I sat down with Chris Figgins, son of Leonetti Cellar founders Gary and Nancy Figgins, and first learned about a new project he was initiating. The C.S. Figgins Estate vineyard, he explained, was the newest (at the time) jewel in the collection of prized Walla Walla vineyard sites that Leonetti had been developing.

Located just a little ways east of the Mill Creek Upland vineyard (also the location of Walla Walla Vintners), the new project incorporated 55 acres in total, of which 11 acres had just been planted to merlot vines. That fruit, said Figgins, would be destined for Leonetti. “It will allow us to finally convert our merlot to Walla Walla valley as we have with all the other wines, and allow Leonetti to be entirely estate grown,” Figgins continued. “The rest of the acreage I hope to start planting in 2006 for what will be an entirely new project.

opportunity knocking

Friday, October 07, 2011

I will struggle manfully not to begin this blog with a retelling of the old joke about the piano tuner named Opporknockity (well, briefly, he would only tune the same piano once because... you get the drift).

Anyway, I am sensing an opportunity for those who have found themselves shut out of certain wine club memberships, or are perhaps a bit unhappy with their limited allocations. A brief window of time may afford some entry for those persistent enough to act.

Why do I say this? Because we are on the tail end of a time of unprecedented wine industry growth in Washington state. With the increase in boutique wineries came an interest in obtaining very limited bottlings of their most desirable wines. With the downturn in the economy and other factors limiting sales, more and more small wineries turned to direct sales (via tasting rooms and wine clubs) to generate profits. And so there were more and more wine clubs to choose from, and competition grew tougher.

a day in the life of a wine writer?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

No blather today. Just this delightful image from a very talented guy named Terry Border. The caption reads "You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato. You Say Potatoes, I say Zombies."

More goodies on his website here.

wine enthusiast top 100 best buys of 2011

Sunday, October 02, 2011

For roughly a dozen years, I have been the designated reviewer of Northwest wines for Wine Enthusiast magazine. During that time I have tasted, scored and reviewed many thousands of Washington and Oregon wines, along with occasional submissions from Idaho and British Columbia.

It’s not really a job, though plenty of work is involved. It’s more of a calling, in the sense that I believe I can put the wines of this region in a global context, point out their strengths, which are numerous, and from time to time cajole a winemaker or two into correcting a perceived weakness.

Every review published in Wine Enthusiast that bears the initials P.G. is my work, solely and exclusively. The editors of the magazine have never changed a word or a score, for which I am immensely grateful. Better yet, in their annual Best Of lists, they have repeatedly honored the wines of the region.

In the November issue, Wine Enthusiast has published its first Top 100 list of the year –