The question that I am most often asked is, "What should I bring ?" I'm here to make life a little easier.
I have three simple rules that I go by and I believe that they are solid enough to pass along to you. People invite you to their party to accentuate their party. Return that compliment by bringing something that reflects you.
1)I don't care where you are from, if you are invited to a party, you must bring a host/hostess gift. It's not a 'southern tradition,' it goes for everyone. And these days, an invite is considered a phone call, email, and most certainly a snail mail invitation.
2)Buy a case of wine, whether it is a mixed case or one that you are extremely fond of and want to recommend. And more often than not, your local retailer will give you a discount on that case. Also pick up some wine bags, usually close to the front of the shop. And for those who are worried about offending somebody who may not drink, there are great sparkling ciders and other non-alcoholic bottles that can be purchased.
3)Here are my four standbys. These are categories that will cover your basis and I have a brand recommendation as well.
Port- Fonseca Bin 27
Red Blend- Stags Leap Hands of Time Red
White Blend- Conundrum White
Whether you are a traditionalist or looking for the next big thing, you are going to have to get on board with the new terminology and practices in winemaking. There is no possible way that with all the new wineries, winemakers and tonnage of grapes, that you can't view wine today as a combination of art and science. We talk about the winemaker putting his signature on the wine, but more and more, his signature is relying on science. This is the future of what we are drinking. It is going to be a part of it, get comfortable with the terminology; because sooner rather than later you are going to need it to understand what is going on in your glass.
They have a passion for what they are doing. They are excited about what is happening in the industry. And when it comes down to it, for all of us, who may be jaded by the business or tired of the "sameness" that we see each day, it takes an infusion of passion and joy like these men exude to really get us involved. It is going to be people like these men who lead us and want us to experience wine like they do. I feel rejuvenated. That's the secret to success.
Ann is the researcher who put together the Aroma Wheel, which changed the wine business. It gave people a baseline, a comparison. It wasn't a grading scale, it was a beginning to assist people in describing the tastes, flavors and aromas of wine. And once we had this baseline and started speaking the same language, things began changing overnight in the wine business. So when you when you discuss women in the business and the impact they had, remember Ann and the others before her that gave us the language and resources we have today.
When more wineries start putting the actual ingredients on the back of their labels, it will be a very interesting day for some. I’m not trying to panic the consumer, it will just clearly define the fine wine producers. It will be an eye opener for many. It will define the have and the have nots. But ultimately, if producers are doing the best they can with what they have and they are striving to do better each day, then of course it will show in the product. And hopefully, ten years from now, these winemakers will look back and say “I remember when I learned that.”
Wine has captured our interest for generations, but currently we have wine grabbing our attention for another reason.
The jury is still out on wine in a can. The jury will be discussing celebrities buying vineyards for a while as well. We are also seeing experiments of aging wine under water. All of this is showing that we are being very different with wine. We are being progressive. The intrigue is heightening the putting attention to the grape and what is in the bottle. That is what I like to see. Stay tuned to many more discussions on these advancements, the revolution is just beginning.
Somebody wrote the show to ask about wine trends for 2013.
I think you are going to start seeing some great wines in places where you might not normally think you could grab a nice glass of wine. Maybe you will be in your local sports bar, or shopping at your neighborhood grocery store. New wines are out there and you need to take notice. Whether it is a South African white wine in a phenomenal bottle, Protea White, or a Syrah based blend 13 years in the making, Sokol Blosser Evolution Red. Try something out of your comfort zone. Toss the playbook around and If You See Kay (Red Blend), let me know.
I strongly believe there are 5 P’s that make wine your beverage of choice. Why you drink what you drink when you drink it.
Proximity, Price, Publication… And the last two are very simple, I preach them all the time. The fourth is Paradox. Let’s face the facts, the health values of wine shot up wine consumption 15% in the first 3 months after the reports began coming out…and sales continue to rise due to these statistics. The argument still rages on, but it is still a deciding factor on why consumers switch to wine. The fifth P is the life and soul of the what the Wine Crush represents .. Perception. The lifestyle, glamour, fun…easy drinking. You can define yourself by what you drink. There is a different varietal for each of your moods. Again, it is based on what you like. Ultimately, the perception has change. You can sit at a pub and order a glass of wine, it is not the rich man’s drink anymore, and you will always find something you like.
I get a lot of emails and calls asking how a certain winemaker becomes famous, why his or her wine is better than another, and it has always been a challenge to find the right words. A recent guest, Winemaker Charles Smith, assisted me on this…
“You can’t talk a wine into being great.” I love this phrase and I thank Charles for his unique perspective. You can’t manipulate the wine, you can’t stand over the barrel and will it to be great, it is the sum of all the parts that come together that make that wine outstanding. It is the art of the winemaker and their building abilities. It is a process to be respected.
Expiration dates, Kegs, Junk Food, Brats…Am I discussing wine?
Yes! It is part of our every day, every outing, or it can be. Wine has a place at your table, no matter where that table may be. A bar, a courtyard, on your patio watching your grill. Wine has a place in your lifestyle, all you have to do is find it! Wine drinkers are expanding. My odd cravings haven’t stifled my regular glass in the evening. You know what I have recently discovered? Chardonnay goes great with fried cheese sticks and that stop at the Mexican place down the street… Riesling does pair nicely with tacos and nachos! Email me your pairings at email@example.com.
Yes, it is the season for hustle, but we need to take the time to slow down.
Take a moment, catch your breath and think about a great wine you want to try. We get busy and plan for the moment, but forget to plan ahead. When speaking on a larger scale, winemakers need to be thinking about harvests and business plans, but on a more individual scale, you may want to think about what wine you want try past tonight’s choice. So I challenge you, what are you planning ahead for this season? When it comes to wine, there is always a tangible goal. Something to look forward to reaching… I want to know what you have in mind.
Is information over-load a problem when trying to learn about wine?
Here are some basic rules that I like to remember when trying new wines:
1) Find what you like and drink it
2) Do not let anyone tell you what to like or not like
3) Weigh and measure everything you read, hear…If it relates to you, appreciate it. If it has nothing to do with you, throw it out the window.
These three rules will help you be more successful in your wine endeavors. I do not want any of our listeners going to a party, a tasting, or wine market and be embarrassed by what they drink or the questions they want to ask. Feel comfortable with your learning experiences, we all have them.
The most common question I am asked is, “Why do you stay in the wine business?”
It has taken me several years to come back with a concrete answer. It used to be because I never got bored, but I’ve discovered the true reason why I have kept up with the wine business is simply because there is ALWAYS an opinion. Whether it is about how a wine should taste, how regulations should be handled, which varietal is the best, or how a wine label should be designed, everybody finds a way to express their opinion. Whether you have studies for 15 or 5 years, you are ENTITLED to your opinion. The focus shouldn’t be on if you are right or wrong, but the fact that you are speaking out about something. So, as I always like to remind you, there is no such thing as an instant expert, there is only your own palate. No matter what you think of a wine, a wine maker, regulations, or wine labels, feel free to discuss it, you can only learn more.
As a wine buyer, when you go into your local mega mart, Trader Joe’s, or wine shop, are you concerned about being seen buying a bottle of $2.99 wine?
I have the luxury, because of my background and reputation, whether I bring a $2.99 or $299.00 bottle, people really don’t know what to anticipate out of me, they just know what I bring is going to be good. I have a fail safe, I don’t have to be concerned about what others will think. But I want to know what you think. When you are buying for your home, a gift, for your table, does the price make a difference? I have a good friend who has been in the business for over 25 years. She is the director of several wine lists in some of the finest restaurants. I was recently at her house having a glass of wine and she brought the rest of it out in a carafe. After my long day, I didn’t want to play “guess the wine.” I looked at her with my tired eyes and said, “Please don’t tell me I have to guess. I’m enjoying the wine, but don’t want to guess tonight.” She looked at me puzzled and said, “I just don’t want to bring the box in here.” For the rest of the night we all enjoyed this boxed wine immensely.
My point to this story is, if we don’t care, you shouldn’t. That’s the root of this show. To instill in you that you shouldn’t be embarrassed by what you pay for a bottle of wine. It’s just what you do while you drink it.
Yes, you read correctly. This time of year when you serve red wine at your home, it should be pulled out of your refrigerator.
I know you may have heard over and over that red wine should never be chilled, but I am here to give you another perspective. Remember it is summer. And think about this...everybody you talk to is going to tell you that red wine needs to be served at room temperature. Room temperature is not 75 degrees. The ideal point is more like 65 degrees. Unless you are paying a tremedous amount in AC bills, you need to throw that wine in the chill chest for about 20 minutes before serving and you will see that red wine blossom during your dinner.
When you are looking to get the most out of your experience at a retailer, restaurant, or with your server
, there is one key thing that you can do to make your wine life a little more fulfilled. Ultimately, your experience is going to be determined by you…and how much you talk. If you open up candid discussions with your retailers, servers, restaurateurs, you can give them feedback and they can discover what their customers want. These are people that have embraced the wine life and hopefully love what they are doing. When you open up and talk to your retailers and servers, you can learn a lot and form great relationships with those that can help you with the important stuff, your wine education.
We've been talking a lot lately about wines by the glass.
Keeping with this trend, Wine & Spirits Magazine has published its annual Restaurant poll. This is a very interesting poll, letting you know where your favorite restaurants are currently heading on the wine front. Check it out and request some of the wines if you are not seeing them in your town. See what you can do. It is currently on newstands.
It's that time of year. I have been seeing a lot of wine lists starting to play with the by the glass wines again.
It's no longer Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. You will see Cabernet Francs, Malbecs, and Carmeneres. As you go out and start dining this spring and summer, and you begin to experiment with the plethera of wines that are offered by the glass, please remember this: Write it down. Please take a few seconds to write down the name of the wine you are enjoying. I will admit, I have many discussions with my friends about this. It really is difficult to kow what wine you are talking about when you describe it as, "That wine with the beige label." I will try my hardest, but I can't guarantee I will be able to read your mind. Have fun and remember to to write the name down.
I would like to know what you are finding on these lists.. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to seeing what you are finding!
This week is a short note. I want to remind you about wine festivals.
These are great events that I believe are becoming more diverse. Wine festivals have a lot to offer everyone. While highlighting great wines, they also feature local restaurant fare, music, and craft beer. Keep wine festivals on your radar and start planning some trips. They make for great weekend getaways.
We often talk aout wine blogs, recommendations, and other websites, but the wine critic seems to be in a seperate category. What exactly is a wine critic's role?
Is it to tell you what to drink? What NOT to drink? How to drink? What is swill? What should stay on the shelf? This is something we need to step back and truly investigate. As times continue to change; and twitter, facebook, and other online media services become more readily available, we find thousands of people who will tell us what to drink. But there is a missing component from this, somebody that speaks your own language.
The new wine critic will be able to define a style for you. How the wine can make your life better. What the wine will do for you, your dinner table, and your guests. As we move further into the digital age, that is what a 'wine critic' should be advising you...how your day will be better when you open up a certain bottle.
If I looked at you and said the word bland, what you think?
I know a good portion of you would say oatmeal, some would say vanilla. Others, not from my region, would says grits...without butter and salt. So what exactly is bland?
There are some that believe that's where we are going with the wine business. They believe it's what we are now making and consuming. Is American wine starting to get bland?
Is it truth or fiction? Honestly, I don't think its truth. However, the more we get into ratings, the more we look at what is coming out of California and Washington state, there does seem to be a consistency across the board. Is it that people are standing out and making exxceptional wines or have we become accustomed to a certain varietal and profile that we continue to go back to again, again, and again? Is this our mother's chocolate chip cookies, our soul food, that which gives us comfort? Or do we just simply not want to step outside the box?
I don't know about you, but I have never appreciated being referred to as anything similar to the term bland, and I don't think you should either. Now's going to be a very good time to go out and try something different so we don't vote ourselves into a situation where everything tastes the same for the next five years.
Whether you see Cupid as an hero or someone to avoid, it doesn't really matter. Everyone has an opinion. How does Valentine's Day fit into the world of wine?
Here are some things to think about:
California produces 60% of American roses, but the majority sold on Valentine's Day in the US is imported, mainly from South America. Just as we try to buy our wine locally, let's make an effort to support California and buy their roses.
A second thought: Women purchase 85% of all Valentines and ironically 70% of women purchase the wines in grocery stores. Let's put these two together and think about this... Men, Valentine's Day is like New Year's. It happens the same day every year. Remember to buy a card, some chocolates and definitely a bottle of wine. It will set a romantic mood for all to enjoy.
There are so many great wines found around the world, every country produces something great from the grape and you definitely need to experience them all.
To be truly involved in the wine world, you need to experience Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Hungary...the list never ends. But, for those of you starting out and trying to get a handle on things, there is a weatlh of tremendous wines in the United States. We are all on the same learning curve, moving forward, and attaining knowledge through trial and error. What this means is that you must go back...go back to those wines and wineries you may have not liked or have forgotten about and check out what might be new. Everyone and everything evolves...we all change the manner in which we do things and how we learn. We discover more about the Earth, the climate, and the production, which advances wineries. The more we are open to revisiting, the more amazing wines we will uncover.
The key to truly enjoying this holiday season is not to have every moment, every bottle, every meal, and all of your plans scheduled down to every second.
If you look back at your great moments of 2010, I am guessing most will be those that were impromptu. They were those last minute plans when you agreed to meet a friend for a glass of wine or invited your neighbors in for a drink when they were dropping off holiday cookies. The holidays should not be about getting all of your packages perfectly wrapped, but it should be about those moments that you will never get back and taking the time to enjoy them...even if it means messing up your schedule.
Impromptu is not a bad thing, it can be the root of many holiday traditions to come.
Yes, I will admit I may have spoke out of turn last week.
Last week when we were discussing matching wines with personalities, I told you, "Gifts should never be given out of obligation." Let's face facts, I lied. I knew then, as soon as the words came out of my mouth, that I should rethink my strategy. As I was speaking, three names popped into my head that I knew I was going to have to buy for, if just to let them know they were being thought of this holiday season. The problem is, these are the ones that become very difficult and make you dig deep, creatively. And now, since I have started on this quest to match personalities with wines, I am asking for your help. If you have come across any crass, leathery, difficult wines- you know those ones that are below average-I need you to email me at email@example.com.
I honestly cannot believe I have jumped on this bandwagon, but I have already started to prepare for holiday shopping.
I have decided to buy each of my friends a bottle of wine that matches their personality. First, think about their personality traits and identify the great ones that stand out for you. Are they bold, not too acidic, subdued when needed, well rounded, and blend in well with others? I believe my producer, Kent, has these qualities and I would buy Sokol Blossor Dundee Hills Pinot Noir for him. This is a nice, thoughtful gift and can be a great conversation starter at the table or holiday party.
Remember, the perfect gift can be right on the tip of your tounge. Need any help with recommendations, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yes, I was out looking for candy on November 1st and I couldn't find any. Why? Because all of the Halloween candy has been put away to make room for Christmas decorations.
We still have Thanksgiving coming up right? We need to get ourselves centered about the upcoming season. In light of all that is to come, we begin to see all of the glossy magazine covers telling us what to drink with our holiday meal and what wine gifts should be at the top of our shopping lists. I don't know about you, but I have a difficult time replicating that perfect table setting that I saw on television or magazine cover. I would love to help you figure it out...but I need to hear from you. I am asking for your deepest concerns about the holiday season....ones you don't really want to ask out loud. Believe me, others are wanting to ask the same things. Email me at email@example.com and I will highlight them each week through the holiday season.
There are a lot of things about wine that scare most people: how to open the bottle, how to read the label, and how to decipher a wine list.
But with all of the websites and radio shows, we have become a little more familiar with the grape, or at least not afraid to ask questions. Halloween is approaching, which makes us face our fears...and my two biggest fears are
1) When you ask the server to see the wine list at your new favorite restaurant and he or she replies, "We have chardonnay, white zin and mer-lot"
2) When you walk into a wine dinner and they tell you, "Sorry you just missed the champagne flight, we started a few minutes early."
Our guests this week address my fear of technology. They both have some really great concepts that I believe will help wine drinkers and lovers alike.
I always enjoy our guests on the Wine Crush, but this week was great for one reason- breaking stereotypes.
No, I did not pay Rajat to say 'drink what you like,' but this week we did get a chance to destroy a stereotype. I truly believe that you should drink what you like and not what you are told. I preach, preach and preach this because this is what it all comes down to. Whether it is a magazine, sommelier, or a wine educator gives you a suggestion, if you do not like it, do not drink it. Everybody has this vision of what a sommelier looks like-white skin, pointy nose, very starched shirt, pens on his jacket, the waiter wrap over his arm, and snooty.... but this is in our head, they are not what we envision. We got rid of this steroetype years ago. Some of the descriptive words our guests used this week are humility, service, value, and passion. Passion is my favorite because no matter what "level" you are drinking at, you will always have that moment when you are looking at a wine list and you need clarity. That is when you need the sommelier to come over and help guide you...and the good ones always do.
We all find value in our wine one way or another.
Whether it is taking a wine you have had in your cellar to a pawn shop, enjoying the company you are drinking with, or discovering a great wine shop or winery, we all put our money where are mouths are. It is important to remember while investing in the ways we choose, that we embrace change. As we say goodbye to summer, put up our white pants and straw hats, ultimately it is about looking at wine in a different manner. We should try to focus on fall wines and appreciate what the holiday wine season has in store for us. I want to know how you are approaching the upcoming season....email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether it is in the ratings, in your shopping cart, or on the local mega mart's shelf, there is always some kind of angle when it comes to buying and selling wine.
As Americans, we are highly competitive. Yes, we all like to say that we whish well for our neighbors and that we want the best for others, but let's face facts...we are all capitalists, we like to go after it, and we want to win.
One exception... wine contests. We have highlighted a few on the show, and these are a win win for everybody. Something I would like to point out, whether we are talking about the Biltmore or Build a Better Burger contests, there is no purchased required to enter. The legalities aside, I think it is a great that they are looking at brining you something besides the bottle. They are making you think about the brand, the background.
So often, what we end up doing is walking down the aisle at the mega mart and just looking at the label, vitner, or year and saying "okay, I will buy it on that." It is contests like these that make you truly investigate what is behind the wine and the stories that come with each bottle. This is what I think is key if you are going to learn about wine.
As we all begin to contemplate our summer bacations, I want to put a small bug in your ear
about what to expect as you travel around as a wine lover and experience different things in great restaurants. For those traveling to to tourist destination, please do not have your heart set on one brand of wine or varietal...you may have your heart crushed. For those wanting to consume some wine on your vacation, I have two pieces of advice...
1) If you are not able to live without a certain wine, pack it in your bag or have it shipped to you. This way you know that you will not have to do without.
2) More imporanty, before you travel, do some research. Check out the area you are visiting and search for wine friendly places. There is nothing worse than being thirsty and walking around a desert of commercial enterprises that offers nothing you enjoy.
So, as you prepare for vacation, make sure you prepare at least a week in advance to ensure you will have those things you enjoy readily available on your trip.
What is topping off your wine?
Whether it is a cork or screw cap, you can discuss the benefits and disadvantages of each, but it all comes down to a matter of your taste. What does the wine taste like? What closures gives you the best expression of the wine? What closure lets you taste the wine as the winemaker intended? These are the questions that matter.
Find a closure you are behind, that you love and appreciate. Maybe you want a screw cap when you are in a hurry, or you like the idea of a cork coming out of a bottle and making its distinctive sound....it is what your like and not about history or tradition. What gives you the personnal taste you deserve.
The Riesling grape is the perfect place to start investigating how seriously you should start taking wine.
Ultimately, if you want to take Riesling seriously, if you want to investigate what is over the pond, looking at Germany and Austria (the true home of this grape), you must understand certain terms. Do you like petrol in your wine? Slate? If you do not understand what these terms truly mean, you will not find it appealing when somebody is recommending it to you. This is what the history and foundation of Riesling is about- the minerality and petrol characteristics. Does this translate well onto a label? Into a wine recommendation? No. Which is why we are seeing more blogs and wine radio programs making wine more approachable. For me to convince you that the idea of smelling petrol and butane is a good thing, you will have to have an open mind. The only way to do this, to make wine approachable, is to have an open mind and try. It is all about what you are WILLING to know.
Yes, you do know more about wine than you give yourself credit for..... You know that
1) White zinfindel or anything pink in the bottle is based on the red grape.
2) Kendell Jackson is the winery, not a type of wine.
3) You can pronounce merlot.
4) Fume-blanc is not the name of the grape.
5) It is acceptable to drink what color of wine you want regardless of the meal.
6) It is recommended to chill your reds at room temperature.
7) When you have ordered a cabernet that your have shortened the grape name.
8) French labels do not give you the varietal.
9) You know a little more about wine because you listen to the Wine Crush.
10) You may know a little less about wine than others, but do not care... You are going to drink what you like and nt what you are told.
It is that time of year when we all start to plan our vacation. Where do you want to go and what do you want to see? For those of you headed out west to the wineries, I have some advice that you may not have heard.
1) Plan ahead. Aim for 45 days out, because if you don't, you may not get to do everything you want to do.
2) Always, Always, pick one valley. Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino..choose one direction and focus on that area. If you plan too many wineries in different valleys, you will spend most of your trip in a car stuck in traffic.
3) You must give to receive. Whether you are visiting a small or large winery, walk in with a great attitude. The attitude that you bring dictates how you will be treated.
Things can get hectic in this industry. It does not matter if you are on your first bottle of wine or your 100,000 bottle,
you have to realize that so much goes into the production of that wine and what goes on behind it affect so many different levels of society. Whether you are buying it at your local mega mart, worrying about whether the production is green, if a moth is going to disappear or come back, concerned about the people who are taking care of the winery, or whether the government will let you ship wine and telling you what you can and can not drink.....something like this will come up each day and impact our lives. Whichever one of these begins to frazzle you, there is always an aspect to wine that you can take. People who say they do not drink wine because it does not affect their daily life- think of the "Kevin Bacon/ Six Degrees of Separation"....someway, somehow, there is a little bit of wine that affects all of us and the best way to get through it is to drink more of it.
I just read a survey where 2,000 people were questioned about their wine views and 84% felt that are being ripped off with wine selections in restaurants.
Well, I have one finger to point ..... and that finger is pointed at you. Ulitimately we are living in the time of the perfect storm of great wine drinking and wine value. Everybody has an excess of juice and grapes- most wineries have wine that they need to get out of the door before the vintages change. What does this mean for the consumer?
All the wine that we have enjoyed that run from $30-$60, you can now find them for almost half the price. So if you have this great value and are presented this wonderful opportunity, why did 84% of those polled believe they are being ripped off at restaurants? Study, listen and learn a little about wine. There has never been a better time to do it and it has never been easier to learn. Whether it is this wine show, a book, or all the wonderful websites available.....do a little research. Make this the time to learn about wine so the next time you go to a restaurant you can realize what great values the restaurant and industry is giving
I want to take this time to pay tribute to a great man in the wine business.
Fess Parker, many of you may know him as Davey Crockett and/or Daniel Boone, passed away this past week. The characters he played were larger than life, which in essence was Mr. Parker himself. Fess Parker went on in 1989 to start a small vineyard, with the intention on sourcing grapes for growers and give them something unique. As his daughter Ashley has said, he was from Texas, he never did anything small. Mr. Parker went on to create one of the lasting legends in Santa Barbara with Fess Parker Wines. These are outstading wines that are a testament to his dynnamic personality, whether it is through his Frontier Red or the unique Viognier. We have definitely lost a legend and I ask that you keep in him in your heart and mind, and when you can ...your palate.
It is very hard to conceptualize this vast, great country.
But one thing I know for sure is that we do not give Italy the credit it is due. The one piece of advice I can give you is to please go out and experiment with Italian wines. This is one of those countries where you really have to step outside of the box . I can recommend several wines, but until you go out on your own, my advice will be hard to get. Italy is a country of many personalities, diversities, and many different geographical areas. It is also a country of many different cultures. As in the US, when you want to compare somebody from the deep south to someone from the New York or northern California, there are extraordinary differences in personalities, food they eat, how they dress and act- the same holds true for Italy. One thing I can say for certain about this country- there is nothing certain about this country. There are no set boundaries, no set laws. We will make sure to tackle more on Italy in future weeks......
How do you define a winery? This is hard to quantify, but I do have my own definition.
A winery, to me, is any entitiy that produces wine. I know this may sound simple, but that is what makes it fun. You can add all of the legal jargon you want to it, but at a base level, does it produce wine? Whether it is a garage in San Diego, a small building in the hills of North Carolina, or on a few thousand acres in Washington State...what truly defines a winery is the wines produced and the people that surround them. What makes people stand up and take notice of a winery is those associated with the winery. Wineries can have on and off years....others are touch and go from the beginning. So I ask you, when looking for a definition, go beyond the stone structure and look at who is behind the scenes.
One thing that I have noticed about Valentine's Day is the high expectations we hold for this holiday (similar to New Year's Eve). We expect such perfection on this evening that it is sometimes difficult to meet the standards we have set.
Everyone wants to go out and have a great experience. Perfect food, perfect service and no problems attached...well this can be difficult for restaurants. Not all are equipped to deal with several tables of two- so you need to realize that your server may have many of these tables and the kitchen may be a little overwhelmed. So take a deep breath, be patient, and realize the reason you are really there- to celebrate with the one you love. Here are three recommendations for a fantastic Valentine's Day:
1) Do not have unrealistic expectations
2) Drink some champagne or a sweet wine (Banfi Rosa Regale, Dolce) with your dessert.
3) Look for specials...For example, one of my local restaurants is offering two steaks, crabcakes, dessert and a bottle of wine in a box. All you have to do is drop by and pick it up for a great evening at home.
Now that the holidays are over, I don't know about you, but I am feeling a bit claustrophobic. This can only mean one thing- quit drinking by ourselves in the house and go out to see what the city has to offer.
I encourage you to see what new restaurants and bars have opened in your area. This is the time of year when exciting concepts debut- new by the glass wines, diverse wine lists, and different vintages are premiered. Truly, it is the dawn of new things about wine. As we go through 2010, your motto should be....Let's experiment and give the new guys a chance. Be adventurous, whether it is trying the new restaurant around the corner or a wine that has been featured, fulfill yourself and learn everything you wanted to know about wine- and bring along some friends in your journey. There is only one way to accomplish this task...One glass at a time.
As we start the great year of 2010, excitement bursts forth and we think about what we are going to do for this great new year.
We turn around and realize there is no wine left in the house....Have no fear, do not panic, there is no better time to shop for wine than now. After returning all those gifts, take the time to go to your local mega mart or grocery store, because right now mellowing out in the back of these stores are grocery carts full of wiine that did not sell over the holiday season. This is a great time to make an opportunity for yourself and find wines that have been marked down 50-75%. So...even if you feel that you celebrated a little too hard over the holiday, take a deep breath, an asprin, relax a little and go shopping to find the bese values of the year.
These are for the wine lover...gifts for yourself...
12) Put down your ratings and drink something for the fun of it.
11) Plant a grape vine- it will teach you a lot.
10) Take a hour to sit and read a chapter or two of James Conway's Far Side of Eden.
9) Do not stress the concept of food and wine pairings- in a crunch...chardonnay and popcorn will do in a pinch.
8) Open that bottle that you have been saving.
7) Drink a glass of sherry.
6) Take advantage of wine-making products.
5) Order an aroma kit.
4) Drink a glass of bubbly before lunch.
3) Do not wait until the new year, start a wine journal now...and remember to use it
2) Eat dessert first..order a glass of champagne and a chocolate plate
1) Try a true dessert wine... Dolce, muscat, icewine......
These are twelve wines(in no particular order) that I strongly recommend as great bargains.
1) Tunnel of Elms Merlot
2) Cellar 8 Cabernet
3) Columbia Crest Merlot
4) Folie A Deux Menage a Trois White
5) St. Francis Red
6) Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc
7) Kendall Jackson Chardonnay
8) Cristalino Brut
9) Capasoldo Pinot Grigio
10) Big House Red
11) Greg Norman Cabernet/Merlot
12) Sterling Vintner's Meritage
This is just the beginning....Stay tuned for more information as the holidays approach!
Back by popular demand- with a few edits...Here is my top 10 list of Thanksgiving necessities.
2) Spot Remover
3) The Bird- Completely dethawed (details, details!)
4) Sturdy oven mits for when you realize that you haven't done #3
8) Cards/ Games ....yes, you need a distraction
9) Exit strategy
10) Wine... Seriously, a must have!
Okay, I want you to be well prepared when presented a restaurant wine list.
Here are a few more things you make want to look at a little carefully.
Is everyting spelled correctly? (Believe me, I have seen PLENTY that have careless mispellings)
Is the presentation neat and clean?
Are the descriptions understandable and concise?
Do they have specials and features?
If you see obvious mistakes...think twice about ordering!
Wine lists come in all forms, so how do you navigate? Ideally, menus and lists are paired and are easy to read.
A wine list can be written several ways....and I have listed a few to look out for.
1) The first is hopefully based on the food menu.
2) Another is by deals in the market. What is on sale...this affects the by the glass prices the most.
3) By a trusted wholesaler in the market.
5) Availability in the market.
Hopefully you do not see it based on price point/margin for the restaurant. You want to make sure the restuarant wants to make your dining experience enjoyable and not all about their profits.
I would love to get an idea of what your favorite restaurant's wine list looks like....Jot a few notes down and shoot me an email.... email@example.com.
I like a little mystery in my life.
That is why I have been asking myself the question, "Are all of us killing the mystery of wine?" Are the massive amounts of information available confusing? Now don't misunderstand, I believe that wine education and experience are important. This show, with many of our guests, truly care about getting the word out to you and showing you how to have a great time with wine. I just want to still have the excitement of trying a wine for the first time....it is the one element that you can't prepare for and still makes this experience tremendous for me. What do you think? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, Wine Crush did a little experiment to find out how much ratings really affected your purchase.
We used two friends of the Wine Crush- Gary Oikemus, who has been a previous guest host on the show and Laura Smailes, one of our producers here on the show. Gary has a strong wine background and Laura has very little. Neither of them knew what the show had in store for them. We did a segment on white wines and one segment on red wines. When they came into the studio, the had a glass already poured for them. The only thing I told them was that it had been Parker rated. I wanted to get their unbiased opinion on each of the wines. The results are interesting, and they prove the point that I have tried to instill into all the listeners...."Drink what you like, NOT what you are told." Ratings can be a good thing, but you have to watch the extent that it affects what you are trying and buying. Let me know what you think of ratings and how you do (or don't) use them to help guide you in your purchases.... email@example.com
I have a list...a pretty short, but necessary, list of items for football tailgates...NO exceptions!
1) True Finger Food...none of that stuff you can't eat when somebody forgets silverware.
2) Folding chairs....You can never have too many of these. You know somebody always ends up having to stand around.
3) Blankets...Can be used as a backup lounger (when somebody didn't provide enough folding chairs) or to keep warm. No whining about you can't take the cold...It's football season!!
4) Trash bags...you may laugh, but there are plenty who forget
5) The three B's- Beer, Bourbon and Bubbles
6) Plastic colored cups....No officer, it's just a diet coke
7) Radio...Have to hear the pre game!
8) 2 coolers....1 for just water and the other for ice and mixers
With so many wine clubs out there, there are a few things to look for.....
1) Look for history. You don't want a 'fly by night' club who doesn't have a history.
2) Look for tasting notes and profiles. Are they telling you about the wine?
3) Are they asking you what you like? Are they trying to fit your palette?
4) Will they stand by their recommendations? Are you able to contact somebody from the club and have your concerns resolved?
Ask yourself these few questions before signing up for a wine club...They have a lot of benefits, but you want to feel good about your decision.
Yes, you heard correctly...You can win some really nice Wine Crush stuff...but you have to participate in our little contest.
Of course I am going to ask you to do something, but it is something you will enjoy.....You like to drink wine right? Check! You have a camera...probably a camera phone? Check!
Next.....Take a photo of you and your friends, family, spouse, etc enjoying some wine...VERY EASY. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the next few weeks we will narrow down all the photos to the top ten and pick a winner from there.....The top ten will be posted on our site. There are no other rules, just enjoy the wine and show us how you incorporate wine into your everyday life!
In case some were offended by this week's show, here are a few things to remember.
1) Don't judge a book by its cover...Wine lovers come in all shapes and sizes.
2) Money does not equate to sense...Just because you can afford it, does not mean you know it
3) 95% of wine is made for the masses..how do you compete with that?
And finally...you can have all the money and cellars you want, but if someone is a seller of wine, they do it for a living .....and that my friend, makes you a hobbiest.
These are a few of my favorite myths.....
1) Old Wine turns into vinegar
2) Blood is used in French Wine
3) European wines don't contail sulfites
4) Antifreeze is used in Austrian Wine
5) It is easy to break a bottle on a boat
6) Legs of wine indicate high quaility
AND MY FAVORITE...
7) Wine is complex and you must study it for years!
Fred Franzia will soon launch his own inexpensive "Down Under' brand after purchasing bulk wine from Australia.
The plan is to retail it for $2.99 with the slogan, "Three Dolla Koala." I believe, like many others, that Mr. Franzia is going up against Yellow Tail (which retails for $6-$8). Yellow Tail is doing pretty well in the US....The brand grew in dollar sales these past 4 weeks. Do you think this is healthy competition?
Here are some of the statistics from this week's show:
The California Wine Institute resports there are currently 2,83 wineries in California; 4,600 wine grape growers; and over 110 different grape varieties grown. A total of 526,000 acres of winegrapes are planted in California, although vineyards oly take up 1% of the state's terrain. By volume, Charonnay remains the leading varietal wines from California, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, White Zinfandel, and Pinot Grigio.
By the way....was there any doubt that Charonnay is the leading varietal???
Everyone has an opinion about closures. Whether you enjoy the romance of the cork or you think the screw cap is an easy, fresh solution....you have an opinion. BR Cohn has asked us to hold a poll of our listeners to see if they should switch to screw caps.
My outlook on this you ask...well it is all about value. If I am at a restaurant or buying a bottle at the grocery store, megamart, or wine shop, I want to open that bottle and have no doubt that the wine is good, complete and know what the wine will taste like. If it has that screw cap on it, I know for a fact that it is what the winemaker intended. That is what he put in the barrel.
Now....let us know what you think. To the right of this blog is the poll I want you to take... Vote, let the true voice of the Wine Crush be heard by BR Cohn.
Fresh from my trip to California...okay, not exactly fresh, I am jet lagged... I have come up with three things I think you should experinece while you are in Napa.
1) Visit the Martini House....They have it all, great food, wine and activities. It is a fabulous time. www.martinihouse.com
2) The best place to experience the gorgeous sunset and have a tremendous drink is Auberge du Soleil Restaurant. You will have to go off the Silverado Trail and spend a pretty penny, but it is well worth it. http://www.aubergedusoleil.com/
3) Go to Oakville Grocery, pick up a sandwich and picnic in the valley. http://www.oakvillegrocery.com/default.php
Also, for something different and laid back, visit Taylor's Refresher...Best Gourmet Burgers and a chance to catch up with some locals. http://www.taylorsrefresher.com/menu/index.htm
When it comes down to it, we still have a lot of people who don't understand the buying roles in households.
I came across an article by DouglasGreen, "Women more Affected by Price of Wine than Men" (here is the link: http://douglasgreen.wordpress.com/2009/05/07/women-more-affected-by-price-of-wine-than-men/). I find this article very interesting because one fact I do know...Women are buying 80% of their wine in grocery stores...and although there is a nice selection at your local grocery store, you are not normally overwhelmed by the prices there.
Another article in the Wine Spectator, Women's Wine-Drinking Habits Examined in Global Vinexpo Survey (here is the link: http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Features/0,1197,5032,00.html). This was an online survey and 431 women in the US responded.....one in which I hardly believe represents the women of the United States. One of the biggest problems I had with the responses was that 84% said they bought their wine in a specialty shops...Again, go to my statistic above....GROCERY STORES!!! And 65% try new wines each time? And only 35% buy the same wine over and over?? Please I alone break this ratio.....
While I believe the web is a tremendous resource, just look- it got you here! I also know what is bunk.
My one recomendation to you is to stick to magazines and industry experts. How do you know who is an industry expert? Well...you learn with time. There are many hobbyists posing as experts. Stick with those you have trusted in the past. Find somebody who has recommended something you like and keep going back to them.
I also want to remind you that I will be at the North Shore Wine Festival in Vernon Hills, Illinois next Sunday, May 3rd. We will be broadcasting from 2p-3pm. Thanks to WKRS for having us!!!
If you have been watching the news lately, you have seen that sin tax is back.
Legislators are looking at putting further taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, etc. Here is my question, if you can afford your alcohol, cigarettes, firearms,etc, why should you pay more taxes because somebody has classified them as sinful? If we want, let's get to the basics and define how items become defined as "sin"- let's get a baseline everyone can relate to.... the seven deadly sins.
If we are going to tax based on sin perspective...
Lust- More taxes on porn, condoms and lingerie.
Glutony- More taxes on foods with trans fats. Late night pizza deliveries, donuts,
Greed- More taxes on lottery tickets, new technology, five bedroom houses when you only need two,
Sloth- More taxes on bottled water, microwave dinners, housekeepers and liposuction.
Rath- Tax the people who file frivolous lawsuits into the court system.
Envy- More taxes on the gossip mags and the country club memberships.
Pride- More taxes on salon visits and plastic surgeries.
These 7 words have to be dropped from labels due to new laws....
I urge you to look at what is on your shelf. And remember, just because your label has changed doesn't mean the content has...Drink what you like!
Here is my list of wine tools that I feel you should invest in....
Clean Glassware...very serious
Glass Markers...very necessary for a party.
Wine Away....it truly works!
Private Preserve (www.privatepreserve.com)
Not that I don't love Northern California, I have many great friends there and the wine is...well you know, NAPA! But many tend to forget the great aspects of SoCal. Here are my top reasons for visiting...
1. Friendlier Wineries...They are always pleased to see you and everyone will show you a great time.
2. Great Rhone Varietals
4. Tropical Fruit
After many requests...here is the St. Patrick's Day Irish Blessing that I read on my show.
May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind always be at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and the rain fall soft upon your fields,
and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His Hand.
Here are three things you can search for on your wine label.
1. Varietal- Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, etc. When it says this, the bottle has to be 75% of that varietal.
2. Where the wine has specifically has come from- Washington State, California, or even more specifically, Russian River...When you find something you really like, stay within that region and try some other varietals.
3. Look on the back to see the what is included...figs, blackberries, etc.
With the Oscars this weekend...I thought I would match some movies to wines... Here are some of my favorite movies to rent and I have paired them with some wines.
50 First Dates- Rose
Steel Magnolias- Grab a great Chardonnay
Sex in the City- Champagne of course!
Gone With the Wind- Pinot Gris
1 ton of grapes= 62 cases of wine or 744 bottles
Chardonnay averages about $2600 per ton and there is $3.50 worth of grapes
in a bottle...about .70Cents in your glass.
Cabernet averages about $3,703 a ton and there is $4.98 in a bottle...about
$1 in your glass.
Pinot Noir averages about $2,137 per ton and there is $2.88 in a
bottle...about .58Cents in your glass.
The Chardonnay I drink is $6,080 per ton and there is $8.18 worth of grapes
in that bottle....about $1.64 in a glass...but you know me, I don't go by
Here are a few crafty ways to add a little spice to your life...literally.
Caraway: Keeps lovers from wandering off
Truffles: 1 part truffle, 2 part champagne "makes women more tender and men more amiable"
Parsley: Increases desire and energy
Saffrow: Gives you sexual stamina
Vanilla in Tequilia: Helps you remain "fit for the job"
Ginger: Nature's Viagra; Best when fresh and grated
Nutmeg: Grate it in a wine or hold one under your armpit
A giant in the wine business, a friend and a legend left us on Monday. Donn Reisen, the President of Ridge Vineyards, is gone.
Donn was synonymous with Zinfandel, and he was a pioneer in promoting the grape and all it's American glory. Donn had been with Ridge since 1977, working his way from a tractor all the way to the top. Moving from fields to sales meetings, no matter whom he was talking to, everyone came away with an understanding of what wine passion truly meant. Donn was a great motivator and a great spokesman, who demonstrated an amazing sense of humor and a great zest for storytelling. There can be few who met him who would ever forget him; I know that I certainly will not. Donn was one of the first wine people who stepped forth to be an interview on the Crush. It did not matter that we had 4 stations, he wanted to lend a hand and spread the gospel. He was my twelfth show, and he led me through the interview, carrying my weight, and I will never be able to thank him enough for that.. He has left his mark on all of us in the business that were fortunate enough to meet him. No matter what comes, I hope that he is remembered for his larger than life persona, and for the many people he touched along his journey. Happy Harvest Donn.
10. What game? I thought it was just commercials.
9. To see your neighbors that you only see once a year...and during the game you remember why you only wave to them during the rest of the year.
8. Because where else can you eat chili, nachos, wings, and 7 layer dip and say "It's tradition."
7. What other event has defined something as big as "wardrobe malfunction?"
6. To see what rock 'n rollers are still alive.
5. To fully understand the new catch phrases your "hip" friends will be using for the next 6 months.."Dude, Sweet, WHAAAAAT's Up....." Need I say any more after these 3?
4. Because as of Monday, you know that all your favorite tv shows will no longer be reruns.
3. Although you know there is no SEC football until August, you can keep up with all the players who used to be there.
2. 93.2 million people can't be wrong
1. Because Wine Crush, your favorite wine show, won't be on for another week- so what else do you have to do?
Enjoy the game! ...Talk to you next week.
Week two of my grand resolutions continues and I have decided that all of this is much easier drinking a few glasses of chardonnay...House is clean, soup is cooking, and after attempting to revisit
my devotion of yoga, only my fingers have escaped being too sore to move. Going back to the chardonnay- has anyone else noticed the recent pricing slide? I have to admit, I have always been a little spoiled in having wine around the house with this gig, but lately, even at my local megamarts, GOOD wine is inching down. Two large past vintages, new vintage coming out and the economy surfing the porcelain bowl, I can't imagine why wineries would want to "discount" some of their current releases.
Even the wineries are feeling the pinch as their new vintage whites start to come on line and they still have pallets of 2006 and 2007 crowding their warehouses. As much as I feel their pain, good for us. This will be a great next 90 days for those of us looking for values in white wine as wineries ditch some of their surplus. So, raise a glass to the fact that whereas most everything is going up, premium tier wines are going down and helping to lubricate all the tedious chores that lay ahead of us in these post New Year months
Happy New Year, and welcome to the first entry of my "New Years Resolution." My goal, no matter how short, is to update this blog every week. (In addition to MY resolution, my producer has resolved to nag me to death if I don't - double motivation.)
See, for those of you who listen on a more regular basis, (and those who don't- join us each week!) you understand that I am of the generation where a conversation is a face to face event, ergo, a blog is going to take me a bit of getting used to. (Even now, the happy paper clip on my word program is telling me that "blog" is not a word). To make this amusing though, I am going to need your help.
Let me know what is on your mind, what you want to talk about or how exactly you want me to mock you..that last part will really save both of us a lot of time. Blog, call, email, lets get to the heart of the matter and hear what you are interested in. So see, this is going to work really well...I get nagged, you get nagged and everyone is happier in the end.
This week, I am recovering from the holidays, cleaning out my house, and working on the upcoming Inauguration show. Although we have a fun show planned, there is still one daunting question that I want answered...What wine is being served at the inauguration? I would imagine that we could predict a lot about the upcoming Presidency if we just knew what he was drinking. Is it going to be high end, expensive cult wines and in that case are they donated (just like the rest of his party)?
Or is it nice and inexpensive,like what the rest of us are having to drink right now....enquiring minds want to know. I hope, at least, it is a US made wine (although I hear he is bolting for Canada shortly). Let's take an informal poll....let me know what you think is being erved and what the ramifications are. I look forward to hearing from all of you, and this is me, signing off on day one o my resolution. God help us all.
5. Wine Book - There are several good ones out there... The one I just finished reading is Billionaire's Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace
4. Wearables - Where can you go wrong here?
3. Port/Sherry - Smooth and also well received.
2. DeCanter - Nothing fancy, just one that is easy to work.
1. Subscriptions - Wine Spectator, Food and Wine... there are great ones to choose from.
1. Is my dress going to fit?
2. How long are they staying?
3. Finding the perfect gift.
4. I can NOT cook.
5. Too much to do an not enough time.
6. Some assembly is always required.
7. It always takes one more AA battery than I have.
8. Why did they put all these extra parts in the box?
9. Does aunt Millie think she is a small?
10. No really, you can watch "It's a Wonderful Life" ... it is only Alabama vs Auburn.
10. Turkeys really do take 3 days to thaw.
9. Fire extinguishers are not optional equipment.
8. Fish and company both begin to smell after three days.
7. Bottle of wine, per person, per day, period.
6. No sentence should begin with "Back home we did it like this...."
5. Martha Stewart has elves.
4. Paper is fine.
3. Blood may be thicker than water, but alcohol is a blood thinner.
2. Let your fingers do the walking- take out works.
1. Relax, drink more, it will go away.
You can't judge a book by its cover, nor can you judge a bottle by its label.
On the flip side, if you have one wine you like, drink it. Don't apologize for always drinking it. Whether it is on ice, out of the bottle, out of the spigot or out of a shoe, enjoy. Think about your friends who like scotch... do you think that they are going to give up their brand or their set up, ever?
Enjoy wine like you enjoy life: At your own pace and for your own pleasure. It truly is no one else's business but your own. And one last note: While you are at it, you don't have to spend more than 10 dollars to find something good.
If anyone tells you that in a wine store or a wine bar or restaurant, walk out the door and never look back... chances are, you know more than they do already. Drink what you like, not what your told, after all, it is just a @#%%$%* fruit.
Seriously, think of all the complex luxury goods in the world. Some of the top ones: Gold, diamonds, platinum, gem stones, essences, truffles, ice in your Scotch in Europe....what do all these items have in common? Scarcity, or at least perceived scarcity. They are hard to get, therefore they are expensive and require a vocabulary of their own.
How the hell do grapes fit in here? Grapes are grown in every state, every country and even on islands we have not found yet. Fermentation is a natural process, in fact, near impossible to stop (elephants make it for fun). So we have every country with the right tools to make this beverage at will....and it is a luxury? It is misunderstood?
Wine is actually easier to make than beer, and yet you don't see Bubba down at the Dew Drop Inn hesitating between Bud and Bud Light because ordering one or the other is confusing or might make him look less than worldly do you? So, once again, how did wine get the rap of being an elitist drink, expensive to own, difficult to maintain and terrifying to order? Beats the hell out of me, but it is time to say enough is enough.
No more cowering in wine aisles, hiding behind lists or asking an eighteen year old server, who has never tasted the stuff, to recommend what you should be consuming. No one is going to think less of you, make fun of you or take away your country club membership because you do not know the difference between a gewürztraminer and a gruner. Try them, try them all and only through trial and error will you find what you like.
There is nothing like actually working in the wine business to convince you that this liquid diamond has lost its luster (except perhaps a three bottle Chardonnay hang over, but that is just part and parcel of the dream).
I am continually amazed at the people who can sit and pontificate for hours about wine: How it looks... is it brick, red, salmon, amber, garnet, browning, ruby, purple, inky, blood like? How it smells...is it blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, boysenberry, strawberry, cherry berry, grapey? How it tastes...leathery, smoky, chocolaty, brambly, peppery, saddled pony? How much it costs, who rated it, when and where, who the winemaker was, what type of dirt is was grown in, at what altitude and how the wind was blowing when it was picked.
It seems, like most of human drama, most people - when it comes to the fruit of the vine- forget the basics. It is grape juice. It is a squished grape that has been poisoned. Period.
How wine got so romanticized, I have no idea, but I truly would like to meet the first person who held a glass up to the light and said "My, this presumptuous little draught is highly complex and terribly misunderstood, I think I will make it difficult to understand and scary to drink", and pop him right in the nose... and we know it was a him, simply because only a man ignored at a party could believe that if he talked about a beverage he would seem interesting.
Now, for the second question- ‘How did you wind up doing a radio show?" this one is a little more entertaining. I started out in the business 20 years ago in retail. Selling Sutter Home White Zinfandel was the highlight of my day.
I was energetic enough to warrant a move to the wholesale side of things (selling wine to your favorite bars, restaurants and mega marts).
One way or another, I managed not to strangle any customers or supervisors and moved my way up the food chain, until I was "upper management" with a very large wholesaler. For the record, this is where the wine business finally got fun. Part of my "upper management" job description, which finally included strangling customers or sales personnel, was to educate the public and conduct large tastings. This put me in a fairly public light. Because of this fact, when the President of the radio network starting doing homework for a lifestyle wine show, he polled local restaurateurs as to a mouthy female who could speak about wine, and my name was top of the list. (Poor man, I still don't think he knows how badly they all set him up).
Now, there are two things to remember about lifers in the wine business. The first is that they are cynical to a fault and are suspicious as hell of any good intentions directed their way. The second thing to remember is that if you wish to have a serious discussion with anyone in the wine business, do not expect to do it after 7:00 on a Friday night. True wine people are either conducting a function, or have had to sample their wares repeatedly to get over the week that just occurred. The president of the studio, unaware of the two bits of wisdom above, dialed my cell phone number at 7:45 on a Friday evening in late October.
To this day, I too am amazed I have a radio show. Convinced as I was that it was a fun loving competitor on the other end of the line playing a clever joke, it is amazing that the Wine Crush is a place I call home today. Fortunately for me, despite my sardonic commentary, my flippant responses and all out rude behavior, the studio President thought I was a perfect fit to get his fledgling wine show off the ground. Although I have to admit, I do wonder if he drank as much as he does now before he made that fateful phone call. So, it holds true, people don't decide to be in the wine business, it usually decides for them.
There are two primary questions that I have been asked since the Crush started: The first- "How did you get in the Wine business?" and the second " How did you wind up doing a radio show?" I have to admit, depending on the tone of voice when those questions are asked,
I do wonder if the person inquiring is simply interested in my background, or just shocked that I am representative of the wine trade. Either way, they both pave the way for interesting conversations.
The first question is easy, and is something that is good for all wine drinkers to remember. Unless you are from a First Growth Family, no one consciously makes the decision- "I want to be in the Wine business when I grow up". If you talk to 99 out of 100 people in the business, you will find that all of us fell into the business.... or we did something really evil in a past life and this is cosmic punishment.
There are people who aspire to be in this business... until they realize that it is not nonstop 100 point tastings, black tie every night, and rubbing elbows with the elite while eating caviar all the time. In fact, the only thing glamorous about the wine business is saying "I am in the wine business". In reality it is a 24/7 job dealing with some of the most temperamental people on the planet. There is an old saying, "Never approach horses or restaurants from the rear". Violation of that, is, in essence your job description when you commit yourselves to selling wine.
I have been doing the wine thing for about 20 years. Thank God, I fell into it when I was 18, or I never would have had the energy to tackle this lifestyle now. Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing, but if I had to start over again, I would look for something less stressful and more rewarding....perhaps in the field of Air Traffic Control. I will tackle the second question next time!
I have been asked this question a lot - "Are there any common words that vendors use that I should look for on the labels?" There are many commons words - but many will not pass clearance and are edited out.
When you look at the back of the labels, you are going to find fruit- apples, pears, and a lot of blueberry. Figure out what fruit you like and you can pretty much bet you are going to find a wine label with that on the back... Especially from California- they will give you a fruit choice that you can use as a resource. Rest assured if you find one that says "green apples" it will taste like green apples.
As far as the wine label laws in the United States, there are no specified reasons to put "reserves", "vendor reserve", etc. There is no common denominator to look for. I think this is what marketers are appealing to...the book on the shelf concept. They are going for the cute, bright, fun labels - ones that appeal to the shopper.
But ultimately, your good wineries will take the time to put a back label on that accurately describes the wine.
And I think this is the best thing to look for when you are trying to pay attention to what you are matching your meal with what wine you are serving. I encourage you to go your local superstore and go down the wine aisle and read some labels. If it has a cute, bright front with no back label... stay away!
I have an issue with Price vs. Quality and I have preached to drink what you want and not what people tell you. The National Academy of Sciences came out with a study that says wine is more enjoyable at $90 a bottle instead of $10. It states that by manipulating prices, we can change how wine tastes without changing the wine. They say that this is "Mind Blowing...."
Of course this is mind blowing, it is consumer perception. The simple fact is that money can NOT change the taste. BIG MYTH- Wine is perceived as a luxury item...and studies like this try to keep that myth alive. I feel certain that I can take 2 bottles of wine- one that is $40 and another that is $10 - turn around and serve both to you in a blind taste test....and you could NOT taste the difference.
A trend that goes along with this and I think people shy away from is the wine in boxes. They see the cardboard on the shelf, etc....and people think it is not drinkable. You have Kendall Jackson, Gallo, and the fine people who brought us 2 Buck Chuck...a lot of big people are doing quality juice in a box. What is Great about them- no glass to pay for, packaging is less expensive, and they can sit for 3 weeks and still be as good as the first day- they see no air.
Step out of the bottle and try a box.