Archive for March, 2008

Smooth isn’t just for wine anymore

On the move with Mr. Smooth!Sadly, aside from the wine-colored halo its amiably vain title character wreaths around himself in the title sequence, this piece has nothing to do with wine. So I won’t be insulted if you just give it a look, rate it highly, email it to all your friends, and think on it no more…

It’s a piece I made for the City of Portland to help launch its first foray into “bike boxes” (special areas at intersections reserved for bicycles to help prevent accidents), titled “On the move with Mr. Smooth.” Its audience is car drivers — since everyone agreed that bikers would easily figure it out on their own, we decided that the best use of the minuscule budget would be to weight the messaging heavily toward motorists. The basic idea: wrap a few key messages in a tongue-in-cheek storyline that didn’t feel like a standard, lecturing PSA. It’s meant for online distribution only.

Does it work? Since it’s a public policy issue, it’s naturally been the subject of some heated comment, but thankfully, the reviews seem to be generally positive. And, uh, no publicity is bad publicity, right? Right?

What’s your review? Take a look and let me know what you think…

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An idle threat

American Blog Awards voting ends at midnight tonight (March 28th), so if you’ve enjoyed reading our scrappy little blog, please consider throwing a vote toward our quixotic quest for “Best Overall Wine Blog.”

Do it, or we’ll drink this wine. Oh. Okay, do it or we’ll drink this other wine. Uh…

Here’s the ballot. Thanks!

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Wining Children

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Asimov posts this week on how, when, and whether to introduce minors to wine. Could it be that, as a place to learn about drinking, the family home beats the frat house?

“The best evidence shows that teaching kids to drink responsibly is better than shutting them off entirely from it,” he told me. “You want to introduce your kids to it, and get across the point that that this is to be enjoyed but not abused.”

He said that the most dangerous day of a young person’s life is the 21st birthday, when legality is celebrated all too fervently. Introducing wine as a part of a meal, he said, was a significant protection against bingeing behavior.

What is the evidence? In 1983, Dr. George E. Vaillant, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, published “The Natural History of Alcoholism,” a landmark work that drew on a 40-year survey of hundreds of men in Boston and Cambridge.

Dr. Vaillant compared 136 men who were alcoholics with men who were not. Those who grew up in families where alcohol was forbidden at the table, but was consumed away from the home, apart from food, were seven times more likely to be alcoholics that those who came from families where wine was served with meals but drunkenness was not tolerated.

Put that way, it seems obvious, but the post is thought-provoking, and I’m not the only reader who thinks so. The Pour normally sees 30 or fewer comments per post; this one had over 300 in a day. Among them are plenty of anecdotes and arguments pro and con, including not a few sobering perspectives from alcoholics. This being the Interwebs, there’s also plenty of sanctimony, hysteria, anger, inapt analogies and rhetorical overreach—the Human Comedy as it plays out in comment threads.

Puritanism and hedonism are the yin and yang of the American Way, so drinking, and thinking about drinking, will always be good blog fodder. But reasonable people such as ourselves can draw a couple of modest conclusions from this particular go-round: to the extent that parents can influence teenage drinking by providing a model of appreciation over intoxication, they should; and—it is delightful to report—adolescents who develop discriminating palates are more likely to turn up their noses at rotgut. Turn your kids into wine snobs, people. It’s the responsible thing to do.

The McQ household is a few years away from universal wine consumption, though Siobhán, one of our five-year-olds, will sneak a taste if given the opportunity, and proclaim it good. Smelling is permitted without restriction, however, and I am pleased that my daughters’ noses are keen. Offered a whiff of a 2005 Mission View Zinfandel, a full-bodied wine redolent of overripe red fruit, Siobhán noted that it smelled “like a thousand rotten strawberries.” That’s my girl.

(Photo nicked from here)

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Citizen Keen

Competition in the American Wine Blog Awards is apparently tight, which leads us to wonder if there’s something we might be missing, something no respectable wine blog should be without, something that says we’re serious about being the go-to URL for all your vinous bloggy needs. Ah, yes. How could we have forgotten?
Why Paul Masson didn’t run these outtakes as the final ad is a mystery; they’re among the most compelling work in Welles’ entire oeuvre.

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Thanks, judges!

2008 American Wine Blog Awards Finalist logoTom Wark, impressario of the influential wine blog Fermentation, just sent word that we’ve made it into the finals of the American Wine Blog Awards this year — in the “Best Overall Wine Blog” category, no less. Wow! And we don’t even own overalls!

Seriously though, that’s news as amazing as it is humbling. Many thanks to the judges for wading through our stuff (really, it comes off with pumice stone and a little proxy-carb) and selecting us as one of four finalists in our category. These anonymous and dedicated folks — hopefully inebriated to dull the pain — surely had their work cut out for them, slogging through scores of blogs to winnow a list from which you now get to choose.

Of course, running that gauntlet now appears to have been the easy part. We’re up against some stiff competition in our category, two of them long-time denizens of our blogroll at right. I had the honor of hosting Vinography‘s Alder Yarrow at last year’s IPNC, and I can assure you he’s as knowledgeable, passionate, and still somehow good-humored about wine as he comes off in his blog. And up against Eric Asimov’s seminal New York Times blog, The Pour? Man, we’ll be lucky if I vote for us.

But, er, don’t let me talk you out of it. Check out list of finalists across all the categories and vote for the ones that most drive you to drink – wine, anyway. Voting is open until 12:01am on March 29th.

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The rack: March edition

Racking the cabernet back into barrelLast week’s racking proceeded with our characteristic machine-like efficiency – when we used our machines, that is.

The Cabernet Sauvignon continues to shine. Great fruit, good tannins which are getting better with every racking (I’ll bet from the wood — see here for our oak strategy this year), transporting aromas of pencil shavings and saddle. This one’s going to be the best Cowan by far.

Next up was the Merlot. It seemed its usual, uncomplicated and amiable self at first, but lurking around the periphery — like the sense you get walking into a familiar room which looks empty, but has someone else inside — was an off odor. It’s a slight tint of VA (or volatile acidity, which betrays a lovely smell of fingernail polish), but there was also a hint of vegetation. A bit of veg can be typical of Merlot’s flavor profile, but this felt ever so slightly beyond that. After racking, everything seemed fine – no VA, no significant veg, and nice fruit. I measured the free SO2 at about 65, which seems safe enough, so no further additions. We’ll want to keep an eye on this one, though.

Lastly, we tasted the Cabernet Franc, which seemed just fine where it was — good, approachable structure, lovely, bright fruit. So we decided to simply top the barrel and leave the racking for the next go-around in April.

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Put a cork in it, pal

Our fancy new corksJust got our new, imprinted corks from Scott Labs in California. Are we big time or what?

Scott’s been our supplier for a couple of years now, and as reflected in the bottles I’ve opened, the quality has been great. Even though the cork industry has been ramping up its quality control (no doubt feeling the heat as winemakers choose alternate closures more and more), you can still pretty much count on one bottle per case coming up corked. That means finding a supplier with ever better quality control is key. Scott’s been that for us so far — don’t let up, guys!

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