Wine of the week: Trimbach Riesling 2005

Wine I had to buy a bottle of wine that my mother would enjoy, but that I would have to drink as well. Which meant no fancy, hip and with it selections; rather, a tried and true wine that offered value and quality. Hence, the Trimbach (about $18), another solid effort from one of my favorite producers. Yes, it's a bit more than I'd like to spend (thank the weak dollar for that), but it's friendly enough for my mother and serious enough for me. What else can one ask for from a wine?

We drank it with a Salad Nicoise (which the Wine Curmudgeon whipped up, being a dutiful son). The wine has just enough sweetness to match the dark flavors in the salad from the olives and tuna, but it's not so sweet as to overpower the food. It's also got enough lemony acid and a minerally finish to pair well. The Trimcach family (for it is still family-owned) has learned a thing or two in the almost 400 years it has been making wine.

Regional wine: The Rodney Dangerfield of the business

Wine I’m in Illinois, so that means I’m going to try and buy some Illinois wine. It’s one of those things that the Wine Curmudgeon does. So I go to one high-end grocery store in a high-end suburb. Nope, no Illinois wine (and the guy behind the counter is even a little surly about it, so the Wine Curmudgeon gives him the evil eye). I got to another high-end grocery store in another high-end suburb. Nope, no Illinois wine.

Is Illinois wine any good? I don’t know. I can’t find any to buy so I can taste it.

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Tuesday tidbits 36

? Cheap wine stumps the pros: Sometimes, all the Wine Curmudgeon can do is smile. The San Francisco Chronicle runs an annual feature in which three sommeliers have to buy seven bottles of wine for $70 ? and suffer in the attempt. ?”This is harder than I thought,” said one. Of course it is. As the Wine Curmudgeon always says, ?Anyone can buy a bottle of expensive wine. What ?s tougher ? and more fun ? is to buy a good bottle of cheap wine. ? Among the choices was our long-time favorite, Toad’ Hollow ?s pinot noir rose.

? Aussie exports decrease: The weak dollar has done its job on Australian wine exports, which are down 12 percent his year ? the first decline in 14 years. Shipments to the U.S. fell 18 percent. The value of the Australian dollar has increased almost 25 percent since September.

? Sunday blue laws: It may be the 21st century, but 15 states still have laws restricting the sale of wine on Sunday. Why do these laws still exist? No one is quite sure, say several people quoted in the article. But it does reveal one intriguing piece of information: A recent paper published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics found that in states where blue laws have been repealed, there has been a 15 percent decline in attendance among weekly churchgoers, along with a nearly 25 percent drop in donations.

Wine scores: Still more work to do

wine scores

At a wine function the other day, I met two intelligent, well-read wine drinkers. This was a big-deal tasting, and they wouldn ?t have been invited unless they knew what they were doing. I introduced myself, and I told them what I did for a living. One of the duo asked me how I scored wine. I told her that I didn ?t use scores. She was quite surprised. How do you evaluate wine if you don ?t use scores? she asked.

It was another Wine Curmudgeon moment.

Regular visitors here know how I feel about scores. And if you ?re here for the first time, you can probably guess. I don ?t like them.

At best, wine scores are sloppy, an excuse for discussing what the wine tastes like and what it pairs with. At their worst, scores are dishonest. No one is ever going to give a $100 wine an 88, and no $10 wine will ever get a 95. Even the most horrible wines rarely score worse than 80, which is supposed to be the cutoff between good and average.

And none of this takes into account individual taste, what mood the person doing the scoring was in that day, or any of a dozen other variables like experience and wine knowledge. My scoring (if I did it) is going to be different from yours which is going to be different from your next door neighbor. So why should my wine scores count more than yours? You ?re going to be drinking the wine, after all.

I tried to explain this to the person at the tasting, and I think I made some headway. She nodded in agreement when I said my goal was to give the reader enough information to make up his or her own mind. I ?m the conduit, I said, not the final arbiter. Her husband seemed to be even more favorably impressed, and I may even had made a convert.

One down, millions more to go.

A footnote: One of the wines served at this event was a 100-pointer (which I ?ll write more about later). I glanced at my companions when we found out what it was, and they both shook their heads. Neither could believe it was perfect.

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Kendall-Jackson: Solid wines, but little respect

image Talk to a reasonably well educated wine drinker ?  or even a wine professional ? and ask them what they think of Kendall-Jackson. ?Oh, it ?s OK, but. they ?ll say.

And the but? Usually something along the lines of K-J is OK for grocery store wine, or that people who like it don ?t know a lot about wine, or it ?s not my style of wine ? anything to point out the difference between themselves and people who like Kendall-Jackson.

Well, those buts are mostly wrong.

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Asus Eee PC 900: Oh, baby

image The best laptop that the Wine Curmudgeon ever used was a TRS-80 model 100, a Radio Shack product that is usually regarded as the world ?s first laptop. It was awesome ? a little more than three pounds, a 300-baud modem, and a faux leather case. In the 1980s, I lugged it to football games, bike races, and city council meetings, where I would write the story, hook the modem up to a phone jack, and send it to the paper by hitting a row of buttons located just above the keyboard.

I loved that machine, which was affectionately known as a Trash 80. It belonged to the late and lamented Dallas Times Herald, and I still have the instructions for using it (written by the great Kevin Edwards, a sportswriter turned cyber type who went on to fame and fortune at the Washington Post).

Since then, I have owned a couple of laptops, none of which I much cared for. In fact, I haven ?t had one for almost a decade. They were too heavy, too slow, too expensive and too irritating. I made do with an early handheld, an HP Jornada 720, which had a downsized QWERTY keyboard and synced with my desktop (though the modem never really worked). 2015 update: Since the Asus 900, I have owned two other Asus laptops, each wonderful.

But all that has changed.

That ?s because I am the proud owner of an Asus Eee PC 900. It weighs 2.2 pounds, has wi-fi, and came with a faux leather case. It has all the advantages of the Trash 80, with none of the disadvantages of today ?s software-bloated, overweight laptops. It was cheap ? about one-third to one-half the price of a reasonably-configured laptop. It ?s efficient, running on Linux instead of Windows. And it ?s quick, taking just 30 seconds to boot up (I just timed it.)

Are there difficulties with it? Certainly. The keyboard isn ?t full size, and support is non-existent. It came with a bunch of software that I can ?t make heads or tails out of (anyone know anything about something called mediaU?). The battery isn ?t what it could be, and I still can ?t get it to read an SD card from the appropriate slot.

And Linux, for all of its stability, is terrifyingly DOS-like. If you want to add more than basic software updates, command line typing is involved. (Children, ask your parents about DOS, and watch the sweat form on their brows.)

None of which I especially care about. It only weighs 2.2 pounds, I don ?t have to hit control-alt-delete. My $5 USB mouse works perfectly. And did I mention that the Asus comes with three USB ports and an ethenet connection?

About the only thing missing is a $10 bottle of wine.

Wine of the week: 2006 Louis Latour Macon-Lugny Les Genievres

Maco3 It’s not often that one can find an $18 wine that will improve with age. These days, spend less than $30, and you’d better hurry up and drink it. It’s as fruity and as interesting as it’s going to get.

The Latour (about $18), though, is a welcome exception. It ?s white Burgundy, which means chardonnay, and since it ?s Macon, it means it wasn’t aged in oak.

This wine is perfectly acceptable now, and the Wine Curmudgeon drank it last weekend (with mushroom and artichoke crepes ? why are crepes so little appreciated?). It’s still a little tight, with some spiciness typical of young white Burgundies. But let it sit for a year or two, and it will open up, becoming a fuller, richer, more complex wine. In fact, I ?ll probably buy another bottle and let it sit for 12 months to see just what happens.

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