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Winebits 317: Kickstarter, cheap wine, wine packaging

Winebits 317: Kickstarter, cheap wine, wine packaging

How would this look in your back yard?

? Don’t we all need a tasting room? Kickstarter is one of the good things the Internet made possible, and I’d say that even if I didn’t raise money for the cheap wine book that way. Consider this: The WinePort portable tasting room for your back yard, devised by Annette Orban of Phoenix. She needs to raise $5,248 by the end of the month, but isn’t very far along despite the idea’s genius (and my $25 pledge). The WinePort measures 200 square feet and is made of recycled materials. Her target audience is wineries, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for wine drinkers who live in more hospitable summer climates than mine. Click on the link to pledge; you won’t be charged unless she reaches her goal.

? A toast to Korbel: The California winery’s sparkling rose that is, which was a sweepstakes winner in the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, one of the most prestigious in the country. The cost? $11, which means it will be showing up a review here sooner rather than later. A $12 rose, from Washington’s Barnard Griffin, was also a sweepstakes winner, though I doubt there is much availability. Korbel isn’t always a favorite of the Winestream Media; I wonder if there will be a backlash against it, as there was for Two-buck Chuck when it won double golds at another big-time California competition.

? Bring on the wine in a box: The always curious Mike Veseth at The Wine Economist visits Kroger to see if wine in something other than bottles is making any headway. His conclusion? There was an alternative packages section in the wine department, which “makes sense generally, I think, because wine has moved beyond the standard 750-milliliter and 1.5-liter glass bottles to include many other containers. The fact that there is a separate wall of these wines suggests that the customer who comes shopping for alternatives is a bit different from the glass bottle buyer.” In this, Veseth has almost certainly identified one of the biggest — and least understood — changes in the wine business: the growing divide between older and more typical wine drinkers and younger and less traditional wine drinkers.

Wine prices in 2014

Wine prices in 2014You don’t need to be an expert — or to consult an expert — to figure out what wine prices will do in 2014. Just spend a couple of extra minutes at the grocery or liquor store the next time you’re there. If you see a fair number of previous vintage wines, and you almost certainly will, then you’ll know that wine prices in 2014 aren’t going anywhere.

More, after the jump:

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Expensive wine 58: M. Chapoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne 2007

Expensive wine 58: M. Chapoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne 2007Most of the time, for most of the wines we drink, it doesn’t matter if the wine is too cold. Or if you don’t open it ahead of time. Or decant it. We drink them, we enjoy them (or not), and then we move to the next wine.

And then there are wines like the La Sizeranne ($125, sample, 13.5%), which require all the care and comfort we can give it.

That’s because this is an exceptional wine; if you don’t fuss over it, it will be that much more difficult to discover how exceptional. At first glance, it’s a classic wine from the Hermitage in France’s northern Rhone — made with syrah, featuring red fruit, mushroom earthiness, and some peppery spice.

But take care with it, and you’ll discover the sophistication that only great wines have, and which makes them so difficult to describe to those who haven’t tasted them. It’s like reading Hemingway. The Nick Adams stories are wonderfully written, but you can’t feel them — the fish on the fire, the chill of the early morning river, the northern Michigan wilderness — until you read them.

I know this because I didn’t take great care with this wine, mostly just opened it and drank it, and I didn’t realize what I was missing until it was almost gone. One day, the La Sizeranne will be powerful and intense. Today, it’s young and controlled, like a boy at a school dance who is afraid to talk to girls. But the promise is there of what could happen in another three or four or five years, and of what it could turn into in its prime, for years and years after that.

Expensive? Certainly. But given how many expensive wines are so disappointing, it’s not much of a stretch to say this delivers value. Just remember to fuss over it.

If you thought winespeak was bad, how does potspeak sound?

If you thought winespeak was bad, how does potspeak sound?The Wine Curmudgeon, whose crusade against winespeak has been a cornerstone of his work, can only shake his head and sigh. Call it an example of the law of unintended consequences — legalized marijuana in Colorado may well bring with it product reviews written in potspeak.

Or, as the humorist Garry Trudeau imagines it: “This limited-edition artisanal cannabis delivers an unexpectedly smooth high, with just a touch of paranoia. …”

I cringe as I edit this. Artisanal? Limited-edition? Where have we read those before? And how did Trudeau overlook the possibility of “boutique” weed? Or that that the toke had hints of cypress and evergreen with spicy overtones?

What’s next for legalized dope? Scores? A terroir debate? The Potstream Media? The Marijuana Spectator? Blogs called Potography and 1 Dope Dude? Or, and let me warn anyone who thinks of this, because I have lawyers on standby, The Maryjane Curmudgeon?

Wine of the week: Pratsch Gruner Veltliner 2012

Wine of the week: Pratsch Gruner Veltliner 2012Periodically, the Winestream Media will embrace gruner veltiner, an Austrian grape, as the next big thing. The Wine Curmudgeon always thought this was silly for two reasons: First, it has not been easy to find quality gruner (as it’s called); most of what I’ve tasted is a riesling knockoff and not as well done. Second, because there isn’t very much gruner, and you can’t have the next big thing unless there are tanker loads of it to sell. Otherwise, it’s just an odd grape.

This frustrates many gruner advocates, including my pal Doug Caskey, who can only shake his head at what he sees at my intransigence. Gruner, as Doug has noted more than once, can make great wine, and can even make great cheap wine.

So this one’s for you, Doug: The Pratsch ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is not only one of the best gruners I’ve tasted in a long time, but the first candidate for the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame. For one thing, it tastes like gruner — some apple and citrus fruit but not too much, a spiciness (white pepper?) and not a trace of sweetness, either in the fruit or the wine itself. This is a crisp wine (but not as zingy as a sauvignon blanc) that will pair with almost any kind of food — I drank it with pork jambalaya, and it worked well with the dish’s spiciness.

It probably won’t make the Hall — I am the Wine Curmudgeon, after all — but it will be nice to be able to say I considered it.

Winebits 316: Two-buck Chuck, Pennsylvania, Kickstarter

Winebits 316: Two-buck Chuck, Pennsylvania, Kickstarter ? But what about the terroir? Ben Robinson at The Thrillist challenges a sommelier to taste Two-buck Chuck to find out “which bottles are totally palatable and even enjoyable. …” It’s an intriguing exercise, and most of the eight wines do well enough (as regular visitors here know). The annoying bit is the post’s snarkiness, because this is cheap wine and it certainly can’t be approached seriously. The most interesting? That the sommelier could only identify the varietal in four of the eight wines. If someone whose entire wine reason for being is baffled by what’s in the glass, what does that say about how indifferent the winemaker is to varietal character? And, more importalty, given Two-buck Chuck’s popularity, it demonstrates that the producer understands that varietal isn’t as important as price with consumers. Not that I’ve ever argued either of those points.

? Finally, after all this wait? Pennsylvania’s state store system, in which the government owns the liquor stores, may finally come to an end. That’s the optimistic reading of this report from Morning call newspaper website: “A suitable deal has eluded lawmakers for the last three years ? really for decades ? as other Republican-led liquor privatization efforts have fizzled. … Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said he hopes to have a liquor reform bill passed and on [the governor’s] desk before the governor’s Feb. 4 budget address.” If Pennsylvania reforms its state state system, that could be the first domino to fall in reform plans elsewhere, including grocery store wine sales in New York. Which means, as the story also notes, that it probably won’t be as easy to change the Pennsylvania laws as everyone hopes.

? Another wine book: Congratulations to Alder Yarrow, the long-time wine blogger at Vinography, who raised $24,200 on Kickstarter for the publication of his new book , “The Essence of Wine.” That beat his goal by more than $6,000. Welcome to the club, Alder. The more I see this going on, the more convinced I am that self-publishing, using some sort of crowd-sourcing, is the future of the book business for those of us who aren’t Stephen King.