Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Prognostications old, prognostications new... (A look back at 2013 and a peak at 2014)

A little over a year ago, I wrote an article outlining my five predictions for 2013. Today, I want to briefly examine those statements and make a few new guesses for 2014.

My first prediction came on the heels of Robert Parker, Jr. taking on foreign investors and yielding editorial control of the Wine Advocate to Lisa Perrotti-Brown, MW. Going against popular belief at the time, I said that the Wine Advocate would expand and increase its popularity. Well, I didn't quite nail this, but the publication did not shrivel up and die like many other people thought it would. Many wine aficionados still wait with anticipation for the release of each issue. Wine prices still jump when Parker (or his other reviewers) throw high numbers at already expensive wines. I still think Robert Parker and his henchmen will remain pertinent (but not dominant) in the American wine industry, but will look to expand to Asian markets as they rapidly grow.

My first prediction may have been a push, my second prediction was both spot on and a bust. I thought that regional wine, and especially Colorado, would see more coverage in the major publications (Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator). Wine Advocate maintained the status quo on ignoring wine from the other 47 states despite having a reviewer living in Colorado (Jeb Dunnuck) who is eager and willing to taste and review Colorado wine. Dunnuck had personally told me that he wanted to get CO reviews into the Wine Advocate, but "the powers that be" have squashed that idea.

The Wine Spectator actually took a step forward before jumping three steps back. In 2013 alone (prior to a policy change), Wine Spectator reviewed more than 115 Colorado wines, doubling the number of Colorado wines reviewed by the magazine the previous 20 years combined! Moreover, both James Moleworth and Harvey Steiman had written relatively positive blog posts about Colorado wine (read more on my take here). But unfortunately, the gains regional wine saw in 2013 looks to have all but evaporated going into 2014. An assistant tasting coordinator at Wine Spectator informed several Colorado wineries that Wine Spectator will "not [be] tasting any wines from Colorado at the moment. Furthermore, we have a new policy which requires all importers and wineries to send the info sheet with samples listed that they would like to submit and then they wait for our approval." For this, they were bestowed Curmudgie by local and cheap wine proponent, Jeff Siegel. Unfortunately, I don't think regional wine will gain much traction with the large wine publications in 2014.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dr. Harry Oldman has a Surprise Holiday Interview...

Dr. Harry Oldman generously unwraps a spectacular interview for us on this Boxing Day.

Kyle, as an old white man with a beard, I felt that it was only appropriate that I give you and your readers a present this year, but I couldn't quite figure out what would be a good gift. Then it dawned on me! I'm friends with a moderately notorious wine critic and we talk fairly often about wine and life in general. He was kind enough to answer the kind of tough questions no one has ever had the balls to ask him. I felt like Katie Couric! He didn't know that I was going to publish the interview, and I don’t want to name names because I don’t have his permission, so I'll just refer to him as SHhh (as in I'll never tell!). You can guess, but I'll never reveal my source!

HARRY: Hey, buddy! Thanks for agreeing to answer some questions. I know how much you hate answering questions, so this really means a lot to me!

SHhh: No problem, anything for you Harry. I actually love to answer questions, almost as much as asking questions! I write for the consumer, first, foremost and always. So when my readers engage with me, I make it a point to always respond. I learn so much from my readers! Blogs and bulletin boards are supposed to be back-and-forths, right? I mean, we live in this new age of participatory journalism. It is not uncommon for me to comment on other blogs, too!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Drink It In (a review of the wine guide to Western Colorado)

I've been without Internet at CWP World Headquarters for the last 10 or so days, so I haven't been able to update the blog. By now, I'm sure everyone is already finished with their holiday shopping and has no need for a suggestion on another wine book to purchase for the wine lover in your life. Plus, there are lots of other book suggestions by every other wine writer out there (Eric Asimov, W. Blake Gray and Dave McIntyre fun the gamut).

But what the hell, I'm going to offer one recommendation that you will not find on any other list of wine books. I know you'll be shocked to hear that it is a book about Colorado wine. Two other books on the emerging industry have been published in the past two years, but neither of those offer the information, usefulness and aesthetics of the most recent addition. Granted, I haven't thoroughly read or reviewed either of those two, but I have skimmed through them enough to know that they don't intrigue me. Both of the other books were self-published and written by people unfamiliar with the wine industry, and it shows. They are filled with black and white text and not much more. One is nothing more than a colorless brochure; it is just a list of wineries and contact information with space for the reader to take tasting notes. The other seems to offer a bit more depth and information, but the first paged I opened to contained a factual error (claiming that Chateauneuf du Pape is known for its syrahs) and the author (who for some reason uses a pen name) argued with me about the federal labeling requirements for listing an appellation. That doesn't do a lot to convince me that the book is worth my time.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Kind of a big deal... (Colorado wins fifth Jefferson Cup)

For the fifth year in a row, a Colorado wine earned a Jefferson Cup. The Jefferson Cup Invitational competition honors the best of the best among wineries from all of America’s wine regions. Each year Doug Frost, one of only four people on the planet to hold both the Master Sommelier and Master of Wine credentials, invites wines from across America to enter; the 2013 competition included wines from twenty-two states, whereas most other wine competitions are dominated by entries from California. Jefferson Cups were awarded to wines made from both Vitis vinifera grapes (a European species responsible for most famous wines such as Chardonnay and Cabernet) and non-vinifera varieties, which flourish in the more extreme climates in the center portion of the U.S. I am hopeful that the frontenac and vignoles (non-vinifera hybrids) vines in my backyard survive the record cold temperatures we're experiencing along the Front Range of Colorado!

This year, six Colorado wineries earned a total of 20 medals from the fourteenth annual competition. Bookcliff Vineyards took home their third Jefferson Cup for their 2011 Cabernet Franc Reserve and repeated the honor they earned the previous year with their 2010 Ensemble. Bookcliff’s 2012 Petit Verdot was also a Jefferson Cup Nominee. You can read my interview with Bookcliff owner and winemaker John Garlich from two years ago, here. Other Colorado wineries that were invited and garnered awards in 2013 were Anemoi Wines, Boulder Creek Winery, Canyon Wind Cellars, Grande River Vineyards and The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey. Colorado's past Jefferson Cup winning wines include Boulder Creek Winery's VIP Reserve (2010), Bookcliff Vineyard's 2009 Petite Sirah (2010), Canyon Wind Cellar's 2009 Petit Verdot (2011), and Bookcliff Vineyard's 2010 Ensemble (2012).

In total, twenty-five prestigious Jefferson Cups were awarded to seven white wines, ten red wines, one rosé, three sparklers and four dessert wines from eight different states. The competition had representation of the best of what every quality wine producing region in the country is offering right now, including representation from California, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington. States that won Jefferson Cups included California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New York and Virginia.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hooked on a Feelin' ... (1800 words on authenticity and Matthiasson wines)

Authenticity is one of the words buzzing its way around the tiny little realm that we call the wine industry. The term even made its way into a Huffington Post story yesterday about common food terms that have lost all meaning. In our little world, one camp (producers, consumers and writers) clamors for authentic wines, while the other (more producers, consumers and writers) bemoans the abstract idea of a wine's authenticity. The whole argument over "authenticity," as it concerns wine, is really over the definition of what is "authentic."

Well, I'll dip my toes into the water on this subject. Authentic wines are wines of undisputed origin and wines (and producers) worthy of trust. Authentic wines can be made in small quantities by an individual or, albeit more difficult, in an industrial setting by a team of enologists in a lab. Authentic wines can be single-vineyard, single-clone wines or blends of unlikely varieties. To me, the idea of an authentic wine is tied to the relationship between the consumer and the producer. This is where trust in the origin of the wine comes into play. I find it easier to have a connection with people, but as my buddy Joe Roberts so eloquently put it (I'm sensing a Pulitzer...) consumers can have a "relationship with a f*cking bag of candy." Proponents of authentic wines want to feel connected to a wine's origin, whether that be the soil, the grower or the producer. They want to know everything they possibly can about how, and perhaps more importantly why, a wine was created.