• Back up the truck: I spent a considerable amount of time as a young newspaper reporter writing about crime, and one learned certain truths. One of which was that thieves like simple – simple to carry off, simple to fence. So how to explain this wine theft, the second in the last six months? This report says hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of wine were taken from a San Francisco area warehouse; the difference between this and the previous heist (love those crime writing terms!) was volume – this was only seven cases of wine, as opposed to most of a warehouse. Still, how does one fence wine? It’s not like many pawn shops will take it.
• Tons and tons and tons of grapes: Think California had a bountiful harvest in 2012? Then get ready for the harvest in Australia’s Riverina, where much of the country’s cheap wine, including YellowTail, comes from. The harvest was near record, not a good thing when the Aussies are trying to cut production. One local official said that despite the near-record year, one-half of growers had not met the basic costs of production for 2013.
• Who tells you what to drink? Robert Joseph at the Joseph Report offers a spot-on analysis of the sweet wine trend, noting the differences between the way sweet red and moscato are marketed in the U.S. and Europe. “In the U.S., the wine industry takes the view that making money out of giving consumers what they like is an entirely legitimate thing to do. It's only fair to point out that the wider acceptance of this attitude goes a long way to explaining the success of supersized burgers and some pretty dreadful movies, not to mention a fairly widespread market for firearms. On the other hand, would it really be such a bad thing if the people who are currently drinking flavourless Pinot Grigio and Merlot had the chance to buy the kinds of grapey Moscato and ‘velvety’ red that are giving such satisfaction on the other side of the Atlantic?”
Innovation? Nope. Education? Nope? Mostly, just cute labels and names, the same thing that has been going on for the past 20 years. The “Let’s appeal to women with a wine called Little Black Dress” approach is what passes for genius around here.
The Willamette Valley in this wine’s name is important, because Cornerstone is more than just an Oregon producer. It’s actually better known for its Napa Valley wines, including a high-scoring cabernet sauvignon that makes the wine geeks giddy.
In some hands, this kind of secondary project might be an afterthought. But Cornerstone does its Oregon wines proud, and they seem to receive the same sort of attention and care that the Napa wines get.
The chardonnay ($35, sample, 13.5%) is, not surprisingly, more California in style than Oregon – richer and oakier. But the fruit (somewhere between citrus and green apple) still shows through, along with the minerality that should be there in well-made chardonnay. All of this is complemented by a long, juicy finish.
The best news from Drink Local Wine’s fifth annual conference over weekend in Baltimore is that the local wine movement is, finally, about more than wine geeks. It’s about local, and that’s as it should be.
One of the things that always flummoxed us during DLW’s early years was the antipathy that local food people felt for local wine. I’ll never forget the phone conversation I had with a prominent Missouri food blogger when I invited her to the 2011 event in St. Louis. I could almost see her turn her nose up: “Why would I want to drink Missouri wine?”
The official name of this wine is actually a lot longer -- Il Poggio dei Vigneti Sangiovese di Romagna Rubicone – which is one of the contradictions that makes the Rubicone interesting. An old-fashioned name, yes, but a modern and professional wine.
Increasingly, there are two kinds of Italian sangiovese – the traditional, which I like but which don’t seem much in favor with the Winestream Media, and what I call the post-modern – Italian in label only. I did a tasting a couple of years ago where we paired a high-point Tuscan red made with sangiovese and a Texas sangiovese. Not only did the latter taste more like traditional Italian sangiovese, but the people at the tasting preferred the high-point Tuscan, which tasted like it came from Paso Robles. Maybe the Italian Wine Guy can explain this to me.
The Rubicone ($12, purchased, 12%) combines the best of both styles. There is a lot of juicy cherry fruit and top-notch winemaking, but also more traditional Italian sangiovese characteristics like bright acid and earthiness. It will please those of us who don’t want the traditional styles to go away, but also don’t want the flaws and off-flavors those wines sometimes had, as well as people who need gobs of fruit in their wine.
• New York decision: There is a lot of legalese in this blog post from the California firm of Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty, but the gist is that New York state – based on a recent liquor authority ruling – will apparently make it harder for third parties, like Amazon, to participate in Internet wine sales. Specifically, says the post, the New York decision (which we’ve discussed here) and a 2011 California liquor board ruling aren’t consistent in several important areas. This is crucial, since Amazon is basing its business model on the California ruling. I’ve been told by my liquor law sources that what happened in New York is not surprising and that there are still many unknowns as Amazon tries to expand into the two-thirds of the country where it doesn’t do business.
• Welcome to Texas: Amazon, on the other hand, scored a victory here when it announced five Texas wineries will participate in its wine marketplace. The Texas liquor board decision to allow Amazon into the state was a close run thing, I was told, but the result is that consumers in the 15 other states (plus the District of Columbia) that Amazon serves will be able to buy some very nice wine. If you need any recommendations, click on the blog’s Texas wine category link. Also worth noting: I talked to several Texas winemakers, and they said Amazon sent employees to the state to taste wines before launching the program. Now there’s a job – wine scout for Amazon.