Archive for the 'Vino' Category

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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It’s Oscar time… for wine blogs

Don’t tell Joan Rivers, but she’ll be snarking the wrong Oscars tonight: the much more prestigious and important event is the Oscars of the wine blogging world – the American Wine Blog Awards – now taking nominations until February 27th.

Generously wrangled by Tom Wark at his excellent Fermentation blog, the Awards celebrate the apogee of inspiration across eight different categories, including (oh, to pick a few at random – ahem) “Best Winery Blog,” “Best Wine Blog Writing”, and “Best Wine Blog Graphics.”

Now, it goes without saying that we’d be flattered and humbled if you nominated our efforts here, but there’s a lot of great wine blog action there, so now’s the time to show you favorites some love. A great place to start, actually, is our list of Wine Links at right.

But should you be so moved, you can nominate us here. There, in the right column, you’ll find a list of categories: just click the one in which you want to nominate us, and then post a comment with your vote and our URL (

Again nominations close February 27th, so pull that black party dress out of the closet and limo on over to Fermentation. Thanks as always for your support!

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A little bubbly to brighten your day

Rollin Soles, Argyle WineryOver the summer, I shot and cut together a seminar on sparkling wine at the International Pinot Noir Celebration which has just been uploaded for the pleasure of all. It features Ghislain de Montgolfier, the charming head of Champagne Bollinger, and his friend Rollin Soles, the irrepressible winemaker behind Argyle‘s supreme sparkling wine program here in Oregon.

You can check it out here.

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Vintage port

1948 Taylor Fladgate vintage portMy wife and I stopped by a friend’s house after Thanksgiving, where as luck would have it her father had recently opened a crusty old bottle of port.

Now, I’ve always liked port, but never really embraced it. Sure, it efficiently delivers both dessert and alcohol in one convenient glass, but it’s often more like a sweet, sloppy puppy than a poised, mature animal.

This was an entirely different species. To begin with, it was from Taylor Fladgate, one of the giants of Oporto. But better, the last time it had seen the great outdoors was 59 years ago. Yes, The Bicycle Thief had just illuminated post-war Italy, the Marshall Plan had just passed Congress, and Harry Truman was only a few weeks away from gaining the White House. That 1948.

The bottle had the telltale (and traditional) swab of white paint across its base, just below where the label would have been had it not rotted off decades ago. It’s a simple marker for those lucky enough to carry a bottle home that one side of the bottle is up, so the sediment (or “crust”) settles in one place for easy evasion when you (or your grandchildren) get around to pouring it.

Michael Broadbent, the charming lion of British wine critics, had this to say about the 1948 in The Great Vintage Wine Book:

Tasted 19 times [ Ed: ! ] since 1958, invariably magnificent. Still fairly deep and intense; beautiful bouquet, lively fruit, scented, citrus, vanilla; sweet, full-bodied, powerful yet perfect flavour and balance with glorious blackberry-like ripeness. Most recently lovely, shapely, ethereal.

Broadbent wrote this in 1991, but 16 years later, it crossed my palette as if we’d shared the same glass. What’s truly remarkable is that even at the close of its sixth decade, it’s still wonderfully alive and full. Deep, resonant layers of flavor, like floating down through successive panes of tinted glass, each a slightly different tint, opacity, and delight.

“Most recently lovely, shapely, ethereal.” I say, old chum: spot on.

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Red, Red Sox

Like all right-thinking people long accustomed to the sulfurous taste of failure followed by the sweet, sweet ambrosia of success, Les Garagistes are fans of — believe in, identify with — the Boston Red Sox. The confluence of ferment and postseason makes October the most glorious month, and many of our fall sessions are accompanied by the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd playing on a laptop in a corner of the winery. I for one will never forget, late that wondrous night, sitting at Matt’s and watching David Ortiz plunk a Paul Quantrill pitch into the Yankees bullpen to win Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, the conclusion of which was not only the most crushing upset in the annals of sport but also one of the greatest events in human history.

That said, I’m not sure that Longball Vineyards is a great idea. Setting aside the pairing of wine with the national pastime, a dubious proposition especially since the demise of the Montreal Expos signalled the end of major-league baseball in French — ‘lanceurs staring into home plate, frappeurs swinging for the fences and voltigeurs tracking down fly balls at la piste d’avertissement‘ — the choice of varietals is problematic.

The ‘CaberKnuckle’ should clearly be Pinot Noir. Tim Wakefield’s signature pitch is the knuckleball, la balle papillon, which makes a slow, lovely and unpredictable dance to the catcher’s mitt. As Willie Stargell said, ‘Throwing a knuckleball for a strike is like throwing a butterfly with hiccups across the street into your neighbor’s mailbox.’ You don’t know how it’s turned out until it’s crossed the plate (or not), and anyone who’s made Pinot Noir knows what that’s like. As for the Schilling Schardonnay, one need only point out that the bloody sock, the holy relic of the 2004 miracle, was red.

‘Manny Being Merlot’? Maybe. Red Sox fans’ exasperated expression over Ramirez’ unreliability has lost its freshness, but Merlot can be great, and Manny is indeed one of les plus grands frappeurs de nos jours. Plus, the drapery of his oversized uniforms suggests Merlot’s softer side. And given what we know of Manny from this recent New Yorker profile,

Ramirez’s appearance—he styles his hair in dreadlocks, wears a uniform cut for a sumo wrestler, and smiles broadly and indiscriminately—hints at this extracurricular flakiness, and even gives off a whiff of pothead.(In 2002, he requested that the song “Good Times,” by Styles P, be played over the Fenway Park P.A. system before one of his at-bats, and unsuspecting fans were treated to lyrics such as “Every day I need a ounce and a half…take a blunt, just to ease the pain…I get high, high, high.”)

this may well be what Bob Marley had in mind when he sang ‘Red, Red Wine.’

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(P)retty (V)irulent (C)apsules

Traditional wine capsules on Burgundy and Bordeaux bottlesVirtually all professional winemakers finish the tops of their wine bottles with some kind of capsule — and while we are as unprofessional as they come, we’ve mostly done the same. Whether it’s composed of wax, lead, tin, or plastic, the capsule is thought to help protect the cork from microbial intrusion, but also to betray any evidence of tampering. A swig-safety cap, if you will.

But what if that seal — whose function is to keep the wine safe — is itself unsafe? That’s what I wondered when I discovered that the capsules we’d been using (and most of the industry uses) are made from PVC, a material targeted by scores of watchdog agencies for its dire environmental impact.

So I did some research, and the surprisingly terrifying results spurred me into a little R&D about how to finish our treasured bottles differently. This gripping journey of revelation and redemption awaits you below the fold… Read more

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That’s Vegas, Baby

Aureole wine towerJust got back from NAB in Las Vegas, where even a glass of Three-Buck Chuck rings in at double digits. That makes it tough to soak up a lot of wine in Vegas, but since everything else is stratospheric (like the $23 Kobe beef burger I had the first night), the price per glass simply disappeared into the overall din. Funny how quickly $12 vodka martinis can become prudent, cost-effective investments.

Or maybe not. In fact, I dimly recall that it was after our second round of these a little before 4 in the morning that we decided we couldn’t leave Las Vegas without paying our respects at one of the seven wonders of the wine world, the glass tower of wine at Aureole. After all, think how expensive it would be to fly back later just to go to this restaurant — why, only a fool would do that. No, we were way too smart. We’d go there immediately, saving buckets of cash.

Another example of the delusional logic Vegas is famous for inspiring? You bet. But this time, the gamble paid off … Read more

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