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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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Initial thoughts on Premiere Napa Valley 2015

Premiere Napa Valley 2015
Last week's Premiere Napa Valley (PNV), the fundraising auction for the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), brought in a record $6.05 million, just surpassing last year's previous record of $5.9 million. Napa Valley wineries donated five-, 10-, or 20-case lots that were then exclusively auctioned off to the trade. The barrel tasting and auction at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus in St. Helena capped off a bacchanalian week in the Napa Valley just as the vines were beginning to spring back to life for the 2015 vintage. The average wholesale price per bottle sold was an astounding $286. The top bidder was Total Wine & More, who purchased 25 lots of the futures for a total of $836,000.

The most expensive lot, which also happened to be one of my favorites, was the 2013 BRAND Napa Valley "Double Barrel Elevation 1588" Cabernet Sauvignon. Sixty bottles of this cabernet sauvignon from Pritchard Hill sold for $115,000 to a corporate finance firm based in Zurich, Switzerland. The frenzied bidding brought BRAND proprietor Ed Fitts to tears when it was all said and done. Two other lots earned $100,000 for a mere 5 cases of wine. Only six lots failed to sell for more than $100 per bottle, three of which were white wines, including a very interesting sweet Scuppernong from Spiriterra Vineyards. Even though I enjoyed it, the unusual wine made from Vitis rotundifolia grapes was a peculiar addition to the cabernet sauvignon-dominated field.

Thursday and Friday were filled with various preview parties around the valley. After missing it last year, I was able to make it to Vintage Perspective Tasting of 2010, 2011, and 2012 cabernets as well as the 2003-2009 library tasting. I also went to preview receptions for Chateau Boswell (a random group of "most celebrated winemakers"), Coombsville Vintners & GrowersPritchard Hill Wineries, Women WinemakersOakville Winegrowers Association, FlyWine (bottles premium wine in 100 mL TSA-friendly bottles), and Winemakers of Brokenrock Vineyard. I had planned on attending a few other receptions, but time and wine just got in the way.


The barrel tasting portion of the auction on Saturday morning showcased wines mostly from the 2013 vintage and the attendance was quite a big smaller than last year. Cate Conniff, the communications manager for NVV, told me that invitations to media, trade, and wineries were cut across the board because too many people were packed into the venue last year. It was refreshing not feeling like a canned sardine this year. Compared to the similar 2012 vintage offered at the previous auction, the 2013s were successful across the board. Ripeness and concentration were not a problem for Napa producers in 2013. To my palate, the wines were marked by good fruit flavors and strong tannins. The 2013 wines tended to be less opulent than those from 2012 and more restrained. As goes with saying for any barrel tasting, the wines were not finished products, so no final assessment can be made. That being said, the wines that really impressed me did so with their aromas, balance, and refinement as opposed to power and density.