Tag Archives: Missouri wine

Will the next great wine movie be about drink local?

drink local
Todd Kliman

Todd Kliman’s “The Wild Vine,” a story about regional wine and drink local, could become a Netflix–style series

Could the first truly interesting wine movie be about – gasp – drink local? We can only hope.

That’s because Todd Kliman’s terrific 2010 book, “The Wild Vine” (Clarkson Potter), may have a decent chance of becoming a film. The production company that bought the rights to the book has even hired a publicist, which doesn’t happen unless the producers are convinced something will come of their efforts.

“The Wild Vine” tells the history of the norton grape and Daniel Norton, the man who accidentally created it, Virginia winemaker Jenni McCloud of Chrysalis Vineyards and her fascination with norton, and the role regional wine has played in U.S. wine history. As I wrote in my review: “It’s a perspective that says, ‘Look, pay attention. Long before Robert Parker and scores and California, there was a U.S. wine industry. And if a few things had happened differently. …’ ”

So what about the movie’s chances of actually being made?

“When people say they’re going to option a book for a movie, traditionally nothing happens,” says Kliman, a D.C.-area freelancer and author who has been down the book option road enough times to know how the system works. “So when a book is optioned, there’s no reason to get giddy. But this time, the producer has real enthusiasm for the book and the story, so there may be a better chance than usual that something happens.”

The producer is Dax Phelan, who not only has Hollywood credibility, but grew up near St. Louis and was fascinated by the idea of norton, a red grape that thrives in Missouri and whose norton wineries produced some of the best wine in the world at the turn of the 20th century.

Kliman says the film future of “The Wild Vine” could be a Netflix-style series, where Phelan has contacts, a traditional film, or a documentary. Much depends, of course, on who will pay for production, and that will ultimately decide if anything gets done. No studio, no film – unless there’s a drink local aficionado reading this who has very deep pockets and wants to bankroll the project. My hope is the Netflix option, which would be better suited to the book’s depth and complexity. There’s too much in the book to cram into a 100 minute movie.

And before I get nasty emails and comments, know that there haven’t been truly interesting wine movies. “Bottle Shock” turned the legendary Judgment of Paris into a snoozefest, and “Sideways” – despite Paul Giamatti’s incredible effort – was mostly two guys whining and trying to pick up chicks.

Mini-reviews 96: Poema, Natura, Sicalia, St. James

st jamesReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

Poema Red 2015 ($10, sample, 14%): This red blend, made with tempranillo and, believe it or not, cabernet sauvignon, is Spanish wine for people who think Spanish wine should taste like it comes from California. Thick, ashy, and not very interesting.

Emiliana Natura Unoaked Chardonnay 2016 ($11, sample, 13%): The Natura, like other Big Wine products made with organic grapes, is surprisingly inconsistent from vintage to vintage given that the point of Big Wine is consistency. There’s more tropical fruit than there should be, less apple and pear, no crispness, and a bitter finish.

Sicalia Red Blend 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Sicilian red, like the Poema, uses an international grape, merlot, so the wine won’t taste like it came from the country on the label. The merlot’s sweet black fruit overwhelms the nero d’avola in the blend, and the result is more ashiness and more unpleasant thickness.

St. James Winery Semi-Dry Vignoles 2014 ($15, sample, 11%): This Missouri wine, sort of sweet and made with a hybrid grape, is something that wine snobs would sneer at on principle. But it’s embarrassingly more honest and better made than the three other wines in this post. Look for lemon and pineapple fruit, a certain softness that makes it perfect for spicy food, and marvel at how this can be done.

Joe Pollack, 1931-2012

image from www.bing.com

Last year, when we held our DrinkLocalWine conference in St. Louis, one of the first people I called was Joe Pollack. Joe was not only one of the best wine writers in the state, but an honest, fair and open advocate for Missouri and regional wine. His help would be invaluable in putting on the conference, and he hosted the winery tours we did on the third day of the event.

As such, he has been an invaluable member of DrinkLocalWine, and has been with us since the first conference in Dallas four years ago. In fact, Joe and his wife, Ann Lemons Pollack, were going to attend this year's event in Denver, and he had just sent me a particularly Pollack-ian email asking about the hotel arrangements. I answered his email, and the reply came from Ann: Joe, who was 81, had died the night before.

Joe had a full career as a newspaperman, sports publicist, and raconteur before I met him. He knew A.J. Liebling, one of the great social critics of the 20th century, and could drop names as disparate as Harry Caray and Jack Ruby when telling stories of those days. A friend of mine, who grew up in St. Louis in the 1970s when Joe was the lead reviewer for the Post-Dispatch, was introduced to him at our event last year. "I can't believe it," he said. "I got to meet Joe Pollack."

I knew Joe as a wine writer, and he was a fine one — honest, critical and fair. He wrote clearly and he wanted his audience to understand what he was saying. Joe was too much a newspaperman to write to confuse, which has been the style for the last decade or so. And he had a fine palate, too; sometimes, the best way to learn about wine is to shut up and listen to others, and Joe was one of the others that I listened to.

He was also one of the first and one of the best regional wine writers; he started writing about the Missouri industry almost before its re-birth in the early 1970s. Too often, regional wine writers are boosters, who find it easy to overlook flaws because they want to be liked, or so snarky that it doesn ?t matter what the wine is like, because all they care about is being clever. Joe was a professional, first and always. He understood that truth is regional ?s wine best friend — even if regional wine doesn ?t always want to hear the truth. Joe isn ?t the only reason Missouri wine is so well made and so well respected, but he is one of them.

And, lest anyone think he was an old school crank, know this: When UrbanSpoon named St. Louis Eats and Drinks, the blog that Joe and Ann wrote, as the best wine and food site in St. Louis, Joe was proud and impressed. He may have started with carbon paper and typewriter, but that didn ?t limit his approach to his work and how he did it. You can't have a better epitaph than that.

DLW 2011: Missouri — Virtual tastings and the future of wine

DLWMO Logo The scene was surreal. There were 21 Missouri wineries in the hotel ballroom, 100 or so people tasting wine, and a large screen at the far side of the room. The screen, changing constantly, was displaying real-time comments made not only by everyone who was in the room tasting the wine, but by people throughout the world commenting on the comments that were being made about the wine. And there were pictures.

Or, as Eric V. Orange, the founder and CEO of LocalWineEvents.com said to me, as we watched what was going on in middle-aged disbelief: "Wow. I never imagined it would be like this."

Twitter tastings, like the one we did for the 2011 DrinkLocalWine.com conference in St. Louis on Saturday, are nothing new. They've been hip and au courant for a couple of years, and not just because of the technology. Virtual tastings allow wineries, wine regions and other groups that don't have big budgets to do tastings that offer big results. The reach is impressive: Those 100 people in a hotel ballroom can turn their tweets about Missouri wine into millions of impressions on Twitter, which can get picked up through other social media like Facebook and even end up in Google search results.

What's new, and what was so impressive this time, is that so many people who weren't there wanted to know about the wines that were being tasted. And that's something that will continue to push the wine world in a completely different direction — one that continues to squeeze wine criticism. More, after the jump:

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DLW 2011: Missouri is this weekend

Years ago, when the Wine Curmudgeon was in the newspaper business, I didn't even know there was such a thing as event planning. These days, I get to do it.

That's because DrinkLocalWine.com will hold its third annual conference this weekend in St. Louis, focusing on Missouri wine. Which has given me the opportunity, for the third year in a row, to add event planner to my already long and bizarre resume. (What, I haven't told you about bagging groceries or working at Burger King?)

And a great event has been planned. My thanks to DLW's Katy Jane Bothum and January Wiese, who did so much heavy lifting, and to Danene Beedle of the Missouri Wine and Grape Board, the conference's primary sponsor. What makes it great? We have our legendary Twitter Taste-off — expanded by an hour and you get to keep the Riedel glass that you use. We have winery tours. We have wine seminars. We have the soon to be legendary Missouri Blind Tasting Challenge, in which we dare any wine snob in the audience to tell Missouri wine from California wine. So far, none of them have accepted the challenge, which isn't surprising. And there might even be a surprise or two, given my new-found reputation.

So if you're in the St. Louis area this weekend, stop by. A few tickets are still available, and they're cheap, cheap, cheap — just $35 for the Twitter Taste-off, which includes wine from two dozen Missouri wineries, a buffet reception with the winemakers and media attending the conference, and the Riedel glass. You can buy tickets on the DLW web site.

DrinkLocalWine.com 2011 conference tickets on sale

And such a deal — a Twitter Taste-off, plus winemaker reception, for just $35. And who says regional wine isn't a recession buster?

The details are on the DLW Web site. Our third annual conference is April 1-3 in St. Louis, focusing on Missouri wine. This should be especially fun, because Missouri produces top-flight wine, but does so with hardly a European wine grape in sight. The state's 121 wineries specialize in hybrids and native American grapes like the norton, vidal blanc, and seyval blanc, and they regularly win awards at some of the top competitions in the world.

Mini-reviews 20: Stone Hill, Souverain, Spy Valley, Vertus

Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month (Thursday this month because of the holiday).

? Stone Hill Vignoles 2009 ($16, sample): Lots of pineapple, but not all that sweet with a long peach pit finish. An excellent example of what can be done with this hybrid grape from one of Missouri’s top producers.

? Souverain Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($14, sample): This wine is one of the reasons why I love wine, and it has nothing to do with whether I “liked” it or not. The Souverain is done in a style I don’t usually care for, oaked sauvignon blanc, but it’s so well done that I can appreciate what it offers and recommend it.

? Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($18, purchased): More wonderfullness from what may be the best sauvignon blanc in the world. Look for even less citrus and more tropical fruit than usual, which is saying something since Spy Valley is among the least citrus-y of the New Zealand sauvignon blancs.

? Bodegas Iranzo Vertus 2003 ($15, sample): Tempranillo from a less well-known part of Spain, and well worth the effort. More fresh cherry fruit than a Rijoa, lots of bright Spanish acidity and even a bit of herb tucked in. Highly recommended.