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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

101 Punctuations

In an exclusive interview, Jeff Siegel, aka The Wine Curmudgeon, confided in me a stunning reversal to his wine reviewing policy. "As of today, I will be review wine on the 101-point scale," Siegel giddily revealed. "I know I've bellyached about the quantitative rating of wine for many years now, but I've finally realized the beauty of the system." Siegel has obtained both a patent and a trademark on the revolutionary system. Siegel made clear that any attempt to co-opt the use of the additional point will be met with swift action by Siegel's legal team, the famous Dewey, Cheatem, & Howe.

The 100-pt system for rating wine has been widely ridiculed, but yet remains popular. "I've seen how Cruella de Monkton has kidnapped the wine world with his 100 points. I have no plans to skinning wines for financial gain," explained Siegel. "I've rolled myself in the soot of bloggerdom long enough and will finally give Bogle and Cristalino the points they deserve. I will start a Dynasty of Dearly Deserving Wines," Siegel said with a sardonic grin. "I'm even thinking of taking the idea further than wine with a magazine called 101 Points by Jeff Siegel," admitted Siegel. "My crackpot legal team is working out the details as we speak!"

After finishing a bottle of cheap Gascon wine, Siegel let another secret slip. Not only will he attempt to change the world of wine critiquing, Siegel claims to have plans to take cheap wine mainstream via broadcast television. "Not enough wine consumers pay attention to cheap wine. If I can put it on TV maybe consumers will start buying the stuff! I've got a green-light to start filming a remake of a famous sitcom," whispered a clearly intoxicated Siegel. "I can't give you any details right now, but will say that Jon Bonné, W. Blake Gray, and I will start filming next month. Just as the original series was all about hedonism, jingle writing, and drinking, I couldn't think of a better way to put cheap wine on center stage than on CBS' Monday night programming."

Siegel went on to mention that the project kicked off when Bonné approached him about starting show about two ex-newspaper wine writers living together and working in a local wine shop while attempting to raise funds to start a winery. The show was going to be called 2 Broke Guys. Getting word of the project, Gray wrote a draft of a scandalous blog post uncovering the plans and demanded to be included or else he would expose the project to the world, taking away the thunder of Bonné's first story for Punch.

Siegel sighed and explained that to make the best of a bad situation he called his friend Chuck Lorre. "I've already said too much, but damn isn't this colombard tasty. I think it might be the first 101-pt wine," Siegel slurred. I figured out the details of the project when Siegel doffed his trademark fedora, winked repeatedly, and not-so-subtly mouthed the name of the show. Apparently, Chuck Lorre thought it would be great to remake Two and a Half Men. Sadly, Siegel refused to tell me which character each writer would play.

Look for the revamped Two and a Half Men on your local CBS affiliate this coming September.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ben's Blush: Rochioli Rosé

Three-year olds can be full of energy. Directing that energy towards a single purpose can sometimes be difficult. They bounce around from place to place or activity to activity. So last year, we enrolled Ben in gymnastics and soccer. While he enjoyed both, he really took to gymnastics. There, he could run and play without the specific structure and rules that soccer entailed. When we asked him if he wanted to sign up for gymnastics again, he literally jumped at the opportunity. Last week was the beginning of round two for gymnastics. With a year of maturity under his belt, he is able to sit still during circle time and listen to the instructor explain the skill of the day. He still likes the free-play time and bounces between the trampoline, beam, and bars with no method to his madness. Despite the chaotic nature of his activity, it is fun to watch him enjoy himself.

2012 Rochioli Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley AVA

This is another 3-yr old that seems to be bouncing around without a clear purpose. Rochioli has quite a good reputation for producing pinot noir, but unfortunately this bottle was just disappointing. It seemed to be all over the place. It had good acidity and decent light, red-fruit flavors, but taken all together the wine was just sort of bland and disjointed. Maybe it was just this bottle or maybe it was me? I have one other bottle that I'll try at a later date. 14% abv. Purchased $24. Average

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ben's Blush: Boulder Creek Dry Rosé

Four years ago, I decided to start a weekly series on sparkling wine in honor of the impending birth of our first child: Benjamin. It was a fun way to celebrate our new bundle of joy and reflect on his milestones, all while exploring a specific style of wine each week. This year, I decided to resuscitate the concept, but with rosé. I didn't time it with Ben's birthday in mind, but his fourth birthday is rapidly approaching.

It also happens to be the 125th birthday of the City of Littleton, where we have lived for the past six years. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Littleton, it is a quiet suburb of Denver located about 10 miles to the south. The historic downtown area is home to a few shops and restaurants, but an influx of more youth and energy would be highly welcome (though many residents want to keep things as they've always been), as downtown is often too quiet. The addition of Breckenridge Brewery this summer should push things along in that direction.

We happen to live between two parks just a few blocks to the east of the downtown district. Littleton uses one of these parks for its fireworks shows several times a year and we get a front row seat. For the birthday celebration this year, the City decided to use the other park for a fireworks show because the Littleton Museum, next door, was hosting a reception featuring Breckenridge beer and food from the Breckenridge's Farm House Restaurant. A few of our neighbors and our trio of kids all trekked the two blocks to the park to watch the show. I admit, it was odd seeing fireworks going off with snow on the ground, but the show was entertaining nonetheless. Ben ooh'd and aah'd on his own without any prompting. On the way back home, the little ones had a spontaneous dance party, complete with bubbles, on the sidewalk in front of our neighbors' house.

The next morning, Ben and I walked down to the rec center for the birthday carnival and pancake breakfast. I was quite surprised how long the line for pancakes was, but I guess free food will do that. After filling up on pancakes and orange juice, Ben spent a good hour running back and forth between the two inflatable entertainment centers (bounce castles). It was fun seeing all the kids having so much fun (and burning all that excess energy at the same time!). I guess you don't have a 125th birthday every year, but it sure would be a great way to kick off Spring and the coming warm weather every year if the City were to throw a party each March!

2013 Boulder Creek Winery, Dry Rosé, Grand Valley AVA

Sadly, Boulder Creek will not be making any more rosé - any wine for that matter. The owners decided to wind down operations because they couldn't find a new location at a reasonable price. This merlot-based rosé is their swan song for the category of wine they thought could be a signature style for Colorado, even though they had trouble selling it because of the lack of sweetness. The color is almost a neon pink. This was an odd, but interesting, wine. Not because of the wild strawberry, or basil, or thyme aromas and flavors, but because of the smoked pepper - almost cayenne - undertones. The finish was notably spicy and with a bit of heat. It went down easily and was surely unique. 13.2% abv Purchased $16. Good

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Brand ownership of social media

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. - First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Constitution of the United States (© Tetra Images / Corbis)
The doctrine outlined in 1st Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the U.S. Congress and state legislatures from enacting laws that diminish the freedom of speech. Most Americans take that to mean that they can say almost anything they wish. Sadly, that is far from the truth. There are many restrictions placed on speech based on factuality, employment, and legal contracts. We may not make a false statement that harms the reputation of another person or brand. Such speech is known as defamation. Non-disclosure agreements (plentiful in the wine industry) also limit what one can say.

Luckily, freedom of expression and opinion are protected under the 1st Amendment. I can say that I don't like a wine or that a restaurant offered poor service during my dining experience. I firmly believe that a bad product review via social media is a brand's opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. When a brand chooses to attack or complain about a criticism, it is just creating more damage to themselves.

One apartment complex in Florida took its stance on speech restrictions and social media criticism to an entirely new level. According to an article on Consumerist.com, the Windermere Cay apartments placed a "social media addendum" in its tenant lease agreements. This non-disparagement clause also assigned copyright to "any and all written or photographic works regarding" the apartment to the owner. In short, tenants were forbidden from publishing negative reviews online, and any comments or photos posted could be altered or removed because the apartment management owned them. On top of all this, a $10,000 fine was written into the contract for the first breach of the agreement and an additional $5,000 per subsequent breaches. Oh, and the apartment owner was the arbiter of what constitutes acceptable use. Windermere Cay basically said its tenants may use social media, but only in certain ways, and if they didn't like how a tenant talked about them they'd be fined.

That is akin to a winery saying that it owns all photos and reviews of its wine online by consumers, and if they didn't like a review you'd owe them money. Can you imagine a winery fining consumers (or critics) for posting negative comments about its wine? All those Delectable and Instagram images could be controlled by the wineries. Any sub-90-point score could be removed from the Interwebs!

Luckily, wine reviews are generally determined to be a safe form of expression. Non-defamatory opinions are fair game. Critics, journalists, and plebeian bloggers can write freely about wines they buy or are provided with free of charge by a winery. So all is good in the wine writing world, right?

Well, some wine critics demand similar constraints on their content. The Wine Advocate declares its reviews/scores as intellectual property that it owns. Not really that outrageous of a concept. However, if you are a commercial user that is involved in the sale or distribution of wine, Wine Advocate requires a commercial subscription agreement for you to use their content. If you use their content beyond what is specifically permitted in the agreement they may terminate your subscription and sue you.

I understand that no one likes to be criticized, but in this age of every single person on the planet being able to express their thoughts (however stupid they may be) and opinions to the rest of the world, is it really in a brand's best interest to bully and threaten others to make themselves appear better via social media? I guess we really are just living on a global playground...

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ben's Blush: Bailiwick Pinorosa

This whole weekly rosé series hasn't exactly been going as easily as I anticipated after missing last week's wine. So, maybe this won't be a weekly series, but an almost-weekly series. At least it will happen more frequently than my roller skating activities. This past weekend we took Ben roller skating for the first time. I can't even remember the last time I put on roller skates. Ben has a pair of plastic skates go over his shoes, but those are nothing like the real thing. And by real thing I mean Skate City; complete with blaring music, colorful strobe lights, and an annoying DJ. He went around the rink a few times and only fell twice, but was more interested by the bigger kids playing shooter-based arcade games. We only stayed for about an hour, but everyone had fun - including Grandpa with his double guns going in the background (see video below). Ben is definitely looking forward to getting back to Skate City in the near future. I'm pretty sure roller skating won't be a weekly occurrence, but more than an every decade phenomenon.

2013 Bailiwick Pinorosa, Sonoma County

I've quite enjoyed Bailiwicks's vermentino and cabernet franc in the past, but this was my first experience with their rosé. This pink wine is 100% pinot noir from Sonoma County grapes bled off after soaking on the skins for three days. It is a pretty pale pink color and is not overly aromatic. There are lots of tart fruit flavors, but this is probably best as a porch-pounder on a warm summer afternoon. It was a great accompaniment to our wasabi-cilantro-butter yellowfin tuna. 14.1% abc. Purchased $15. Good


video

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A few more comments about Premiere Napa Valley 2015

1. Premiere Napa Valley is a great way to taste a lot of wine, but a terrible way to actually taste wine. Spending only 30 seconds with several hundred wines over the course of a few days is like trying to buy a house by only using Google Maps. You can get a broad understanding of the neighborhood and certain houses may catch your eye, but you don't get the real look and feel you would by spending time inside the houses to really explore them. You don't get to see how the wines taste with food or how they evolve over the course of an evening with friends and family. Pretty much you only get a general understanding, dehydrated, and terribly stained teeth.

2. Most of the wines I tasted during my three days in Napa were from the fabulous 2013 vintage, but some of the wines that stood out most to me were from the much less heralded 2011 vintage. Napa wine from 2011 ain't so bad, and may outshine the more critically acclaimed vintages down the road. Yes, 2011 was cool and wet, and many wines are defined by herbal, even moldy, greenness that most people will find off-putting. However, the wineries that were able to sort and use ripe (not overly ripe) grapes made some stunning wines. I heard one retailer joke that he was going to talk the 2011s up every chance he had just so others would be tricked into buying them so he wouldn't have to. I pity that fool. I look forward to tasting the few 2011 Napa cabs I have in my cellar more than any other vintage.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Gary Vaynerchuk gets back into the wine game...

The 2015 edition of Premiere Napa Valley saw a fundraising record for the Napa Valley Vintners. PNV15 also saw the return of Gary Vaynerchuk to Napa on the ninth anniversary of the first episode of WineLibraryTV. Gary helped his father successfully bid on 11 lots (840 bottles) to a tune of $377,000 ($449 per bottle). Gary energetically tasted with vintners during the barrel tasting prior to the auction and frequently posted selfies to Twitter (without the aid of a selfie-stick). I caught up with Gary briefly after the auction to discuss WineLibary's purchases and the possible return of WineLibraryTV.

Wine Library's Gary and Sasha Vaynerchuk at Premiere Napa Valley 2015