Tuesday tidbits 44

? GrapeFest People ?s Choice awards: One reason why the Wine Curmudgeon loves the event so much is because ordinary wine drinkers get to be completely honest about what they like. And this year, they liked mead ? more specifically, mead from Purple Possum Winery in Navasota, Texas. The cranberry and habanero meads won their categories. And you know what? I have never been able to figure out what people like about mead.

? Updating the ultimate wine textbook: There ?s a new version, with a new title, of the industry ?s standard text. WineWise: Your Complete Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Enjoying Wine, written by Culinary Institute of American professors Steven Kolpan, Brian H. Smith, and Michael A. Weiss. It ?s $29.95, and should be out by the end of the month. It ?s highly recommended (though the authors should know by now to include more about Texas).

? Wine intern meets wine harvest: The farming and production part of wine making is, to put it politely, a lot of work. William Goebel, an intern at Folie a Deux Winery, which makes some nice $10 wine (even some more expensive stuff) has decided to write about his experience, and it ?s a lot of fun to read. My favorite, in a post about barrel samples: ?That ?s it, I have to give up, bed time at 6:45pm. ? That ?s the Wine Curmudgeon ?s kind of guy.

If the world ends this week. …

It ?s probably going to be the Wine Curmudgeon ?s fault. I ?m going to be in Bordeaux Thursday through Monday on a wine trip, and on our itinerary are Cheval Blanc, one of the jewels of Bordelais winemaking, and perhaps Chateau Petrus, which produces one of the most expensive wines in the world.

Regular visitors here know that I like cheap wine. I thrive on cheap wine. It ?s as much a part of me as my Chicago upbringing or my fondness for the Ramones. The minute that I set foot on the grounds of either of those two properties, I am terrified that the heavens will open, various people will be felled by lightning bolts, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will ride up.

As if the world doesn ?t have enough problems already.

Restaurant wine: What we’re drinking, part I

image This is the first of two parts looking at restaurant wine and what Americans drink. Part II will appear Sept. 22.

If anyone wonders why more people don ?t drink more wine in restaurants, look no further. The answer is in this year ?s Top 100 Wine Brands and Top 100 Individual Wines, a report compiled by Restaurant Wine magazine tracking restaurant wine sales in 2007.

And the reason? Restaurants sell a lot of very undistinguished wine.

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Llano Estacado Winery

image This is one of an occasional series detailing Texas wineries. The complete list is here.

Llano executive winemaker Greg Bruni ?s candor is especially refreshing. ?We have not yet made the best wine we are going to make, ? he says.

How often does one hear a Napa winemaker say that?

And no jokes, please, about the quality of Texas wine. Is Llano, the oldest and second-biggest Texas winery, with more than 100,000 cases a year, as good as a Bordeaux first growth? Nope, but neither are most of the wineries in Napa. Llano consistently produces quality wine, just like any other 100,000-case California winery.

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$10 pinot noir

image Wine doesn ?t get much snootier than pinot noir. The grape is troublesome to grow, it ?s difficult to turn into quality wine, and the wine is almost always pricey. In fact, save for the Burgundy region of France, a stretch of the Willamette Valley in Oregon and parts of California, most of the rest of the world has given up on pinot noir. (And, frankly, a lot of pinot from the rest of the world should be given up on.)

Plus, pinot drinkers ? as demonstrated by the movie Sideways ? can take their enthusiasm for to unreasonable lengths. This produces a clubbiness that rivals that of red Bordeaux or Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, two other leading causes of wine snobbery.

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Wine of the week: Sterling Vintner’s Collection Pinot Grigio 2007


It ?s 8 p.m. and you ?re in a strange city and you want to buy a bottle of wine. The only store you can find is a national chain supermarket. What ?s a wine drinker to do?

Buy the Sterling ($8), which not only offers bang for your buck but tastes good. There is nothing necessarily good or bad with grocery store wine. It depends on who makes it and what they ?re trying to do with it. In this case, Sterling succeeds on both counts.

This wine isn ?t as minerally as Italian pinot grigios, which is a welcome relief. Also, look for tropical fruit instead of lemon or lime. This is an aperitif wine, as well as one that will pair with seafood and roast chicken.

Tuesday tidbits 43

? Top selling restaurant wines: Restaurant News has released its 2007 list of the best-selling wines in U.S. restaurants, and there aren ?t a lot of surprises. The top five are Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, Beringer Vineyards White Zinfandel, Cavit Pinot Grigio, Sutter Home White Zinfandel, and Inglenook Chablis. I ?m going to write more about this, but what ?s worth noting now is that there are only two red wines in the top 20: Yellow Tail shiraz at No. 9 and Blackstone merlot at 20.

? Australians take their wine seriously: An Aussie grape grower plotted to blow up a rival winery when they reduced their payments to grape growers. The grower, Steven Bergamin, hired a private nvestigator and an undercover policeman to do the job, using a remote-controlled device so he could watch from a distance. He was given a suspended sentence.

? Wine Curmudgeon at GrapeFest: Those of you in the Dallas area can see me at 11:15 a.m. on Friday, when I talk about how to taste wine. It ?s titled ?Wine tasting 101: Or "How to Spit and Swish Without Making a Mess." GrapeFest, of course, is one of the largest regional wine events in the country, and its People ?s Choice tasting is unique ? wine drinkers are allowed to make up their own minds, without any help from people like me.