monday nothing, tuesday nothing...

Monday, June 27, 2011

An old Fugs tune is running through my brain today. The Fugs, for you youngsters, were a seminal East Village "band" in the '60s. They are still around, with a horrendously ugly website and a "greatest hits" collection! Gotta love it. The song I am currently "singing" is called "Nothing". It goes like this:

Monday, nothing
Tuesday, nothing
Wednesday and Thursday nothing
Friday, for a change
a little more nothing
Saturday once more nothing

Sunday nothing
Monday nothing
Tuesday and Wednesday nothing
Thursday, for a change
a little more nothing
Friday once more nothing

give me money, that's what I want!

Monday, June 20, 2011

How much should a winery charge for its wines? How much is too much? These questions arise from a lively discussion on my Facebook page, instigated by a brief rant from me. I wrote: "Hard to believe but there are still new wineries charging $35, $45, $75! a bottle for wines that wouldn't stand out in an amateur wine club competition. People - please! If you are going to try to make wine professionally, develop your palate!"

Now, to understand where this came from, let me explain that I taste new wines, from new wineries, constantly. I comment publicly on their wines, and give them reviews and scores. But I rarely comment publicly on a whole host of other things that I notice, such as silly names, amateurish label design, over-the-top packaging, and prices. As for pricing, my feeling has always been that a winery is a business, and any business has the right to set its prices any way it wishes.

Now I'm not so sure about that.

an embarrassment of richness

Friday, June 17, 2011

I spent much of Thursday tasting through the 2008 wines from Cayuse. Vigneron Christophe Baron was especially pleased that yesterday was a Biodynamically-ordained "fruit day" – particularly auspicious, he believes, for wine tasting. And perhaps it was just the power of suggestion, or perhaps the moon and sun and stars and forces of life were momentarily aligned. But the 2008 vintage, across the board, was unique and riveting, even for Cayuse.

There was plenty of fruit, for starters, not as hunkered down and smothered in funk as is usual. And a powerful streak of what can only be described as minerality rolled through virtually all 11 wines. There was an elegance, a balance, a femininity to the wines – without in any way sacrificing their muscular power – that bodes well for their cellar-ability.

what those scores really mean

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Many of you who check this blog know that I am also the designated Northwest reviewer for the Wine Enthusiast magazine. In fact, as the wine industry in this region has grown exponentially, my tasting responsibilities for the magazine have occupied more and more of my working week. Given that this is the only publication for which I score wines, as well as review them, I take the responsibility very seriously.

In challenging economic times, I know how a positive score can help, and a negative score can hurt. I balance that against the knowledge that no critic who wants to be taken seriously can be 100% positive all the time. I am often perceived as a cheerleader for the wines of Washington and Oregon, and to some degree that is true. But I am also a critic, and I hold these wines to a very high standard, because they have earned that respect.

everything I know about wining and dining, I learned from my cat

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Here are the top ten food and wine lessons my cat taught me:

should your wine be safe as milk?

Monday, June 06, 2011

Think of your absolute favorite wine in the world. Your go-to wine, your can't miss wine, your pure pleasure wine. Do you want that wine to be consistent, reliable, the same great flavor year in and year out? Or do you want that wine to surprise you with its ability to be itself and yet be somehow unique in every vintage?

To put it this way, do you want that wine to be Humphrey Bogart – essentially the same great character in every movie he ever made? Or do you want him to be Johnny Depp – a funhouse mirror of an actor, capable of locking into any role in his own unique way, without being repetitive?

I ask these questions because they apply not only to wine, and actors, but to much of what we choose for pleasure in life. A recent New Yorker profile on PepsiCo (Snacks For A Fat Planet) noted that Pepsi's food and beverage brands "represent a kind of promise to its customers – a guarantee that the drinks and snacks are safe, and that the taste of them, that irresistible combination of flavors, will be the same every time."

Is that what the most successful wine companies also deliver?

cabernet vs. cabernet

Thursday, June 02, 2011

There is no doubt that when it comes to cabernet sauvignon, bottled as a varietal wine, not as a messy "Bordeaux blend", the Napa valley owns the pole position in the race for consumer mind-share.

But while researching and writing upcoming articles for the Seattle Times and the Wine Enthusiast, I began thinking more seriously about how Washington cabs stack up. I did some poking around at reviews from my California-based colleague, Steve Heimoff. I compared scores and prices.

Remembering that Napa alone has as much acreage as the entire state of Washington, it is no surprise that there are plenty of great cabs to be found. At a price. What is surprising – should be shocking to those who don't live here – is how many great cabs come from Washington. As a percentage of production, if you look at scores, and especially if you look at QPR, Washington takes second place to no one.

I invite you to set up your own comparison. Pick a price point and/or a score range. Go to the Wine Enthusiast website (see link to the right) and access the database. Drill in to cabernet sauvignon – Napa – Columbia Valley and see what kind of a list you pull up. Then grab a few bottles and a few friends and taste them all blind. See how WA vs. Napa stacks up.

You pick the Napa cabs. Here are a few from Washington to try: