Archive for the 'Les Wine and Food' Category

David Lett 1939-2008

Sad news marking the end of an era: David Lett died Thursday of heart failure at home in Dundee.

Lett earned the nickname ‘Papa Pinot’ for introducing Pinot Noir to Oregon, for introducing Pinot Gris to the United States and, some say, for his resemblance to ‘Papa’ Ernest Hemingway, whom he resembled not just physically but also in his tough, terse, no-nonsense style.

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Reprint: Crush Time

One more chance to make the perfect wine

[ Since we’re in a harvest mood, I thought I’d reprint this article I originally wrote for Imbibe Magazine in 2006. It’s a decent introduction to all the decisions winemakers need to make leading up to harvest. Whether we’ll make the same ones — or as well — remains to be seen, of course… ]

Maybe today is the day.

It’s mid-morning in Oregon, late in September, and winemaker John Paul is winding his beat-up van down a familiar dirt road through hillside vineyards, wondering how the grapes will taste today. At the edge of autumn, the sun still low in the sky, the leaves on the vines are a blaze of vermillion and gold. Outside the window, the air feels warm and clean on his hand, but there’s a brittle edge to it that only confirms the seasons are changing and harvest is near.

Like an expectant parent, Paul been feeling these and other faint contractions for weeks as the grapes arc toward ripeness. He knows the labor of crush could start any day.

Maybe today is that day. The day crush begins.

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The View from Oracle

Oracle VineyardLooking west from the lower, still-to-be-planted part of Westrey‘s Oracle Vineyard

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Just Sip It

[ In honor of the new NBA World Champions, here’s a reprint of a column I wrote back in the Jordan era about basketball and wine. Check out the stars I mention — now that’s old school, baby! ]

A dark arena surrounding a gauzy, spotlit court. Everything seems slow, supercharged and saturated, almost dreamlike. Michael Jordan, lean and crouched, is facing off against some hapless guard as the ref tosses the ball skyward. Cut to a tight shot of the ball rising to the height of its arc until Jordan is just about to touch the ball. There’s the woody sound of a cork being coaxed out of a bottle, and then freeze-frame and echoy silence — maybe the distant clink-clink of full bottles — as everything stops, hanging for a moment.

Just as we can’t stand it anymore, one last squeak explodes to the intercut sound and visual of a cork popping as Jordan smacks both the ball and the camera pace into motion. Music starts — maybe Hendrix singing Dylan’s line about businessmen drinking his wine — and Jordan flows up the court and takes to the air, all grace and knowledge, super-imposed with red wine poured super slow-mo, roiling into a glass as the camera tracks a 360 around it. As Jordan nears the rim a third image of a lowering bottle of wine is superimposed, touching the ground as the ball snaps the net. Fade all but the dramatically lit bottle, and super text:

“Domaine Dunquage. Red, white, and beyond…”

Didn’t see that one during the playoffs? Neither did we, but as we wandered into sports bars, asking after their corkage fee, we began to wonder why. What is it about sports in America that has made it so inhospitable for wine, and yet so welcoming for beer and other beverages?
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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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