pokes and jokes

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some random news bits and stuff to ponder this wintry weekend.

A friend points out that just a decade or so ago, we could all enjoy the talents of Johnny Cash, Charley Pride, Steve Jobs, and Bob Hope. And now, just a few years later, we have lost our cash, our jobs, and our hope. Let’s hang onto our pride.

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My recent blog on sham-pagne got a re-tweet from the @ChampagneBureau, who wrote: “It’s not #Champagne, it’s just a sham. See for yourself so you’re not fooled. @paulgwine explains.” Which brought this rejoinder from @TishWine: “That horse left the barn too long ago IMHO; perhaps @paulgwine should've said so when giving those ‘sham’ brands awards."

Well, in fact, I did make it quite clear that the brands continuing to abuse the term Champagne with their California fizz were perfectly within their legal rights. I was not giving out “awards” to anyone! But this idea that just because the word Champagne has been co-opted by American wineries for decades makes it somehow OK to keep on doing it, or worse yet, that it’s now too late to do anything about it? Bullhockey! Should we continue to encourage California wineries to continue to make their Chablis, Port, Sherry, Chianti, Hearty Burgundy, etc. etc. just because “that horse left the barn too long ago...”?

I say what is wrong is wrong, and it is never to late to correct it. There is nothing OK about bamboozling the public with a fancy name so you can sell more plonk. It’s past time to put the damn horse back in the barn!

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A letter to the editor ran in Wednesday’s Walla Walla Union-Bulletin that inadvertently (I believe) made an excellent case for why the state of Washington has no business selling liquor. Written by the manager of the local liquor store, it contained this telling paragraph:

“Certainly the results of the recent vote for privatization of the state liquor stores is a big setback to the careers and long term goals in life of myself and all the 900 employees of the Washington State Liquor Control Board. We have firmly believed in and upheld the original true mission of the Washington State Liquor Control Board. This has been to serve the public by preventing the misuse of alcohol as best we were able. If it were not for this mission statement neither I nor my staff would have much interest in the selling of alcohol.

The two goals – selling alcohol, and preventing its abuse – are not necessarily opposed. But when those who monopolize the selling of spirits proudly admit that they have no interest in the very product they represent, it is clear that they should be working on the enforcement side. Let those who know and appreciate spirits, sell spirits. And at the head of that list should be the independent owners of neighborhood wine shops, who have been unfairly cut out of the opportunity to add spirits to their merchandise. Legislators, are you listening? Please make the necessary adjustments to 1183 now.

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For those too young to remember, and perhaps a bit jaded by the dismal state of politics today, here’s a note from 1973. The New York Times reports that on November 17, 1973, President Nixon – [AKA Tricky Dick] – told an Associated Press managing editors meeting in Orlando, Florida., that “people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook.” Of course, as we soon found out, he was a crook!

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I have not had the chance to read through Steve Tanzer’s report on Washington wines, but did see this excerpt from his introduction: “If you're an inveterate Francophile when it comes to structured red wines and have always been skeptical of those upstarts in Washington State, the 2008 vintage offers a perfect opportunity to give these wines a shot. And if you're a long-time fan of Washington's wines, you'll want a healthy allotment of these wines in your cellar. The 2008 growing season produced more outstanding wines in Washington State than ever before, and many of the better wines are already disappearing from the marketplace.”

I have only met Tanzer once, and corresponded briefly with him a couple of times, but I respect his palate and appreciate the fact that he does trek out to Washington annually to taste widely. He has a good track record, an amazing grasp of world wine culture, and a palate that often corresponds to mine. I am not entirely sure that I agree that the 2008 vintage produced more outstanding wines than ever before, but it’s a nice accolade and who wants to argue with it? Most importantly, when a serious wine critic from the Least Coast pays close attention to Washington wines and piles on the praise, it is a sign of some sort of tectonic shift happening. About time!

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