10 (mostly) wine-related activities to keep you busy while you’re at home

wine

So what do we want to do next? Bake bread or install Linux on your old laptop?

Because when there’s a crisis, the Wine Curmudgeon is here to help

March 21 update: Thanks for all the emails and kind words about this post. It has been one of the best read on the blog since this thing started. I’ll work on a virtual tasting and let you know whether we can do it. My only regret? No one has asked me to help them install Linux.

1. Try a wine you’ve never tried before. How difficult can it be, when you can’t buy toilet paper, to push your cart over to the supermarket Great Wall of Wine and pick out a $10 bottle?

2. Look for every corkscrew in the house and get rid of the ones you don’t want. How many corkscrews do you use? And do you really need this one?

3. Never, ever use the phrases “social distancing” or “sheltering in place.” This thing is bad enough; do we need to butcher the English language in the process?

4. Try a wine and food pairing you’ve never tried before. Chardonnay and frozen chicken pot pie? Tempranillo and quesadillas made with all the leftovers in the meat drawer in the fridge?

5. Install Linux on an old computer. You’ll be stunned at how easy it is. Really. I’ll even help if you want.

6. Hold a virtual tasting. I did that this week with my pal Jay Bileti, who lives in southern Arizona. We turned on Skype, opened two New World syrahs, and talked about the wines. That they weren’t even the same wines didn’t matter. The point was to taste and talk about wine, and it was tremendous fun. In fact, the more I think about it, there’s probably a way to do a virtual tasting through the blog, so that regular visitors can participate. If there’s enough interest, I will figure something out.

7. Bake bread. This is even even easier than installing Linux. This recipe is as basic as it gets – mix, knead, let rise, and bake. And don’t worry if you don’t have a stand mixer; you can use a food processor with a bread blade or mix by hand.

8. Finish the damned novel. (Yes, I know that doesn’t apply to most of us, but the thing has been sitting in a folder on my computer longer than I care to admit.)

9. Order from wine.com. The on-line retailer has been a long-time supporter of the blog, but that’s not the reason why I’m including it here. This is a chance to see if on-line wine sales make economic sense for you.

10. Keep a list of every despicable PR pitch you’ve received since this mess started, tying the pandemic into whatever foolishness they normally pitch. Sadly, there have been dozens. Then make sure to never, ever use those PR people in the future.

Art: “LEGO Minifigure Enjoying Wine” by Pest15 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

 

Wine judge showdown: Bruce Lee scores one for Drink Local

Don’t tell Bruce Lee that Drink Local doesn’t deserve a gold medal

Judge enough wine competitions, and you eventually run into the judge whose idea of being open minded is to give a sauvignon blanc a gold medal. Many don’t even bother to taste regional wine — they just mark it off because it’s Drink Local. Or, as a judge at a major U.S. competition once told me: “Only chardonnay, cabernet, and pinot noir get gold medals — just so you’ll know not to waste your time.”

Enter Bruce Lee, who has no time for this kind of foolishness. This blog post is dedicated to every judge I sat with during my career who would benefit from this kind of discussion.

The scene is from one of the first — and still one of the greatest — martial arts movies, 1973’s “Enter the Dragon.” Almost everything that has followed, whether Jackie Chan, the Hong Kong style, or even Disney, starts with “Enter the Dragon.” My apologies to Lee, as well as to everyone else associated with this incredible effort. Who knew John Saxon was a kung fu expert?

A tip o’ the WC’s fedora to KAABA on YouTube, where I found the original scene. And all silliness like this owes a debt to WineParody, whose Robert Parker epic is the standard by which these efforts are judged.

Make sure you turn captions on when you watch the video; you can make the captions bigger or change their color by clicking on the settings gear on the lower right.

More wine and film parodies:
Robin Hood
Casablanca
Shaft

Wine of the week: MAN Chenin Blanc 2018

MAN Chenin BlancSouth Africa’s MAN chenin blanc offers quality and value in an $11 white wine

I’ve spent the past couple of months writing about South African wine, not only here but for the trade media. The goal? Trying to figure out if South Africa can fill the void caused by the 25 percent tariff on French, Spanish, and German wine.

Sadly, despite top quality wines like the MAN chenin blanc ($11, purchased, 12.5%), the answer seems to be no. The reasons are many, including the three-tier system (since each wine needs a distributor, which most don’t have) and problematic pricing on higher-end South African wines.

Which is too bad, since the MAN chenin blanc does everything a terrific $10 wine should do. It’s a far cry from the country’s pre-Apartheid chenin blanc, when it was called steen and was likely to be soft and flabby.

Instead, the MAN is fresh, crisp, and enjoyable, without any cloying fruit or sweetness. Look for some lime and tropical fruit and more layers of flavor than most chenins at this price have. In this, is a professional wine and very well done, and shows how far South African winemaking has come.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

Winebits 637: Plastic wine bottles, Coronavirus wine humor, Utah liquor laws

plastic wine bottles

Yes, plastic wine bottles exist.

This week’s wine news: Is the plastic PET bottle the future of wine? Plus, Coronavirus wine humor and Utah may let residents bring wine into the state legally

Is plastic the future? One analyst, noting that most wine produced today is made in bulk and to drink immediately, says recycled PET is “a realistic alternative” to glass bottles. Emilie Steckenborn, writing for the Beverage Daily website, says the plastic bottles are much better than the traditional glass bottle – lighter, more cost effective to ship and store, and infinitely more environmentally friendly. In this, the piece is surprisingly frank about the inefficiencies of the traditional bottle, and she sounds more like a certain curmudgeon than a member of the Winestream Media.

Coronavirus wine? Let me apologize for this item first, but I couldn’t resist: A Dallas wine shop says it has “Coronavirus vaccine sold here: bubbly, white, red available.” As the article notes, it’s a refreshing change from the toilet paper hording stories that are dominating the news and even – dare we say – a reason to smile? Also, please note the difference between this and the hucksters and scam artists flooding the market with fake cures and testing kits.

Finally, Utah? Regular visitors here know the WC enjoys poking fun at Utah, whose liquor laws are some of the most restrictive – and silliest – in the country. Well, there may be one less reason to poke fun: the state is about to let the state’s residents join wine clubs and bring wine in from another state without committing a crime. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the bill just needs the governor’s signature. Fortunately, the new law is very Utah – no home delivery for wine club members, who would have to pick the wine up at a liquor store and pay the state’s 88 percent markup in addition to the cost of the wine.

Expensive wine 130: Ponzi Chardonnay Reserve 2015

Ponzi Chardonnay ReserveThe Ponzi Chardonnay Reserve speaks to Oregon quality and value

The Ponzi family was one of the first to make pinot noir in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in the 1970s, and their pinot has long been regarded as some of the state’s best. Now, second generation winemaker Luisa Ponzi wants to do for chardonnay what her father Dick did for pinot.

The Ponzi Chardonnay Reserve ($40, sample, 13.5%) shows the skill and quality in her approach. First and foremost, it’s a tremendous value – a top-notch New World chardonnay that is quite young but delicious now (and could age for as much as a decade).

Look for an almost baked apple aroma, followed by fresh, tart green apple fruit and baking spice flavors and supported by just the right amount of oak. The finish is long and pleasant. This wine, as most great Oregon wines do, sits somewhere between the French and California versions of chardonnay and shows why Oregon has earned its excellent reputation.

Highly recommended, and the kind of wine to buy now drink and buy again and keep for a couple of years.

Hoarding toilet paper and what it says about us in the time of the coronavirus

toilet paper

This is where the toilet paper wasn’t on my trip to a Dallas Kroger on Thursday morning.

Is hoarding toilet paper really the best way to fight the disease?

How screwed up is this country at this place and time, even though the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is barely here? So screwed up that the best advice I’ve heard came from a couple of sports radio hosts, who are hardly the source one would expect. They told their Dallas audience on Thursday morning to ignore everything they hear and read about the illness unless it comes from an expert – and no, Twitter trolls do not count as experts.

Yes, this has nothing to do with wine. But I just got back from my local Kroger, and the picture with this post is where the toilet paper should be. How did we get to the point where our reaction to a global crisis is to horde toilet paper? When that happens, someone needs to say something, and I’ve never shirked that responsibility.

This is the United States, and we’re supposed to be the best and the brightest and to set an example for the rest of the world. That was the point of our experiment in self-government 244 years ago; as Benjamin Franklin put it: “Our cause is the cause of all mankind….

Instead, we’re hording toilet paper.

We should be leading the fight against the Coronavirus (COVID-19), not banning travel from Europe. Talk about locking the barn door. The virus is here – banning travel isn’t going to make it go away or slow its spread. That’s what makes a pandemic a pandemic. Instead, we should be spending the time and energy and money we’re wasting on the travel ban for testing kits and medical supplies, and for research to understand what this thing is, and how it spreads, and how to contain it.

But we’re hording toilet paper.

Says one leading scientist: It’s “clear from genomic evidence that community spread is occurring in Washington state and beyond. That kind of distortion and denial is dangerous and almost certainly contributed to the federal government’s sluggish response. … Transmission rates and death rates are not measurements that can be changed with will and an extroverted presentation.”

Hopefully, we figure this thing out sooner rather than later. Until then, people will die. But not to worry, right? We’ll have enough toilet paper.

Six days without wine

winespeakHow does a wine writer get by if he goes six days without wine?

How is this for irony? A day or so after last week’s wine blogging and coronavirus post, I got sick, and that meant no wine for six days.

The illness was nothing serious, just a variation on a theme that I’ve been enduring since grade school. It’s not really strep throat and it’s not exactly the flu; more of a cold and sore throat that last a week to 10 days and where the only thing one can do is wait it out.

So, of course, that meant no wine for the worst six days, which is hardly ideal for someone who makes their living drinking wine. Still, given how crappy I felt, I didn’t notice the absence. That’s more or less what happens every time I get this. In fact, one of the ways I know I feel better is that I want a glass of wine instead of the salt water I have been gargling every two hours.

My illness-induced abstinence made me ponder (though, to be honest, I didn’t do much pondering at the time given how crappy I felt):

• I didn’t want wine because I was sick. So how does that work during Dry January? I understand the motivation for people who are alcoholics, but if you’re not an addict, where does the impetus come from? The link above describes it as “reassessing your relationship with alcohol.” That phrase raises a variety of psychological and metaphysical questions that rarely come up when Dry January is discussed, as well as the U.S.’ seemingly ever-lasting temperance legacy.

• The only good thing about being too sick to drink wine is that one doesn’t have to worry about which wine to drink with dinner. When your meals are turkey vegetable soup for four days in a row, pairing doesn’t matter much.

• Second irony? The last glass of wine I had before I got sick was an oxidized, not-very-Beaujolais-like Beaujolais at one of Dallas’ more trendy French-style bistros. Talk about leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

Finally, I felt too crappy to care enough to to look at the blog numbers. Which is just as well, since they no longer resemble one of the best read wine blogs in the cyber-ether, but sit about where they were a decade ago. The drop in visitors I noted in the coronavirus post has accelerated, and if I was the kind of person who worried about metrics, I would be worrying.