Category:A Featured Post

Monday Birthday Week 2013 giveaway: Riedel Swirl + Gift set

11182013And the winner is: Joyce DeBlieck, who selected 910; the winning number was 920 (screenshot to the right). Hers was the final entry of the day. Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow’s prize is the definitive book about American wine, ?American Wine, ? written by my pal Linda Murphy and Jancis Robinson, courtesy of the University of California Press.

Today, to celebrate, the blog’s sixth anniversary, we’re giving away a Riedel Swirl + Gift set, with four red wine glasses and a decanter, courtesy of Banfi Vintners. It’s the first of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.

Complete contest rules are here. Briefly, pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of the prize post. One entry per person, you can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post. Otherwise, your entry doesn’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you have to come to the website, and to this post, to enter. At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the Riedel set.

Falesco wins cheap wine poll

wine-bottles-rowFalesco Vitiano, the long-time Wine Curmudgeon favorite, stormed past Bogle over the weekend to win the blog’s first best cheap wine brand poll. Bogle had held a comfortable lead until Saturday morning, when Falesco made its move. The complete results are here.

McManis finished third, while Two-buck Chuck came in last among the 10 brands. The other big mover was Barefoot, which spent most of the poll in ninth, but rallied over the weekend to finish sixth.

The biggest surprise was Yellow + Blue, which came in ninth. I’ve never had a badly made Yellow + Blue wine, and its products regularly make the $10 Hall of Fame. The only thing I can think of is that voters really don’t like wine in boxes, which is something they need to work on.

Thanks to everyone for the terrific response, which earned the poll a Statesman’s badge from Ranker, the company that does the polling widget. We had 770 votes, which was a nice turnout for something that didn’t get a lot of planning or preparation. And thanks for all your comments, even the not-so-nice ones. Much of the what I did this year was limited by the polling widget, and I’ll see if I can streamline the polling next year.

Do your Black Friday shopping here, but don’t worry about our employees

The Wine Curmudgeon would never ask his employees to do something he wouldn’t do himself. Since I’m not working over the Thanskgiving weekend, neither will the marketing or shipping departments. Which, of course, are me.

The rest of the retail world may not understand that there are more important things besides making money, but I do. That huge, multi-billion dollar companies are requiring employees to work on Thanksgiving so they can sell an extra video game or pair of blue jeans, and that the employees will work on Thanksgiving without a fuss because too many need the overtime, speaks to what’s wrong with American business. The pursuit of stuff doesn’t benefit anyone.

So buy as many books as you want over Black Friday weekend, secure in the knowledge that they won’t be shipped until Monday. Instead, I will be eating turkey, drinking great wine, devising creative ways to make use of Thanksgiving leftovers, and feeling damned sorry for everyone who isn’t as lucky as I am.


What’s the best cheap wine brand?

You tell me, using this poll. After all, the whole point of what I’m doing here is help wine drinkers to figure out what they like so they don’t need to be told by people like me. Planned obsolescence for wine writers is not such a bad idea, is it?

Voting is simple — just click on the up or down button. Voting starts today and ends on Sunday; I’ll post results on Monday with a few comments, which will be a fine way to begin the blog’s sixth annual birthday week. If you get the blog via email or RSS subscription, click here to go to the site so you can vote.

[rnkrwp id=”1044663″ url=”” name=”The Best Cheap Wine Brand”]

Louie Canelakes, 1955-2013

Louie Canelakes, 1955-2013I’ve met bankers and ballplayers, business and political types, and even a few reasonably well-known actors and musicians over the course of my writing career. But none of them were larger than life the way Louie Canelakes was larger than life.

Louie died over the weekend, news that was as unexpected as it was unbelievable. Institutions don’t die; they last forever, and they give the rest of us the strength and the wherewithal to get through the day. Once, when I was enduring about as rough a patch as someone like me can go through, one of the things that kept me going each week was that if I made it to Friday, I could drink beer at Louie’s. Most of the time, that worked.

Louie ran a bar in Dallas (called Louie’s, of course), which doesn’t sound like much. But in this town, most of which was dry in one form or another until a couple of years ago, that speaks volumes. And that he did it for almost 30 years is even more telling, given that Dallas churns out bars, restaurants, and clubs the way teenage girls get band crushes.

Louie had one rule — if you had the money to drink at his bar, you could drink at his bar. Otherwise, he didn’t care who you were. It was a neighborhood place, but the neighborhood was all encompassing. The rich drank there (the mother of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who came in her limo, was at the bar next to me one night), as did assorted newspapermen and TV reporters, and even the powerful and famous, including former Dallas mayor Laura Miller.

One of Louie’s customers was one of the most despicable human beings I’ve ever known, the kind of guy who gets into trouble with people who hurt other people for a living. One day, a couple of leg breakers showed up looking for the guy, and Louie sent them away. I asked him about it, knowing that Louie didn’t much like the guy, either. “Siegel,” he said, because he called everyone by their last name in that Midwestern high school way he had, “he’s my customer. You tell me what I’m supposed to do.”

Louie and I didn’t meet until we got to Dallas, but the joke was that we had grown up together. He was from Waukegan, north of Chicago, and I’m from nearby Deerfield. We were in high school at about the same time, and my mom worked for the Waukegan school district and ate at his father’s Waukegan restaurant. That meant we shared an affliction for the Chicago Cubs and saw politics as a spectator sport, which gave us plenty of giggles in Dallas.

Louie is the only person I’ve ever lost a cheap wine argument to, which should tell you everything you need to know about how much he loved to argue and how he ran the business. Louie’s, for all its strengths — some of the best food in Dallas, bar or no, and easily the best-made drinks in town — serves crappy wine. Once, when I was feeling adventurous or stupid or both, because Louie was famous for ignoring customer advice, I offered to help re-do the list so he could serve better — but still cheap — wine. “Siegel,” he said, and I can hear him growling at me as I write this, “why would I want to to do that? What I’m doing is working. Why should I change?”

I am not a sentimental man, and rarely nostalgic. But I can’t imagine Dallas without Louie, and I don’t want to. So I’ll play this, and see if I can find an Old Style or two, and remember. Because people still live on earth in the acts of goodness they performed, and Louie performed enough to put the rest of us to shame.

Winebits 307: Wine cities, Wine Spectator, wine revolution

? More wine in Dallas, please: The Wine Curmudgeon has noted many times that Dallas residents treat wine as if they were afraid of it, and now we have statistical evidence to support my observation. A Harris Poll found that Dallas residents are the least likely of anyone in the country’s 10 biggest metro areas to drink wine, and that we lead the country in not drinking any alcohol at all. No wonder we spend way too much time obsessing over the Cowboys. Obviously, I have my work cut out for me, and will continue to urge responsible cheap wine drinking on the masses. It’s the least I can do.

? Some wines are more equal than others: Kyle Schlachter at Colorado Wine Press, who has much more patience with the Winestream Media than I have, reports on what appears to be the Wine Spectator’s double standard for choosing wines to review. The magazine has said it won’t review some wines (in this case, from Colorado) if they they aren’t widely available. On the other hand, it recently reviewed several wines from France that weren’t widely available (10 cases or less in the U.S.). Schlachter seemed surprised by this contradiction, but that’s only because he hasn’t been dealing with this kind of hypocrisy for as long as I have. The Spectator does what the Spectator does; that’s why it is the Spectator. And why it has a Curmudgie named after it.

? Democratizing wine: David White of the Terroirist has a fine take on the changes in the wine business, led by consumers who make up their own minds about what they want to drink. He quotes Jancis Robinson, the preeminent European critic: ” ?No longer are wine critics and reasonably well-known wine writers like me sitting on a pedestal, haughtily handing down our judgments. Nowadays ? [consumers] can make up their own minds. That ?s altogether a lot healthier. ? It’s also intriguing, from my perspective, that some of the best and most well-known critics in the world see this change and approve of it. That means they have the well being of wine and wine drinkers at heart, and not whether they continue to be important and famous.