Lost: My Wine Spectator is not equipped with navigation.

spectator n. onlooker, watcher, observer, viewer, witness, passerby, bystander, *rubbernecker.

wine n. a spectacular liquid expression of hope, fear, beauty, and life meant only to be observed as it swirls from a bottle into my glass lifting aromatic bliss to my nose and sending a complex array of flavors to my lips.

Just recently [as in, 5 minutes before posting this edition of the tiffandsauce blog] I posted a short piece titled Only the Stones where I stumble over words to describe my attitude and opinion when it comes to critical scores and ratings on wine.  This post had been collecting dust in the drafts folder because I feel its a little clunky, not concise, and an incomplete thought on the topic at hand.  Then I realized, I often write in incomplete thoughts.  There are sentence fragments strewn about, I ramble off topic, and my reader may or may not follow me all the way through.  So I went ahead and blasted that thing out of the drafts folder and into the blog-o-sphere because I’m not afraid of my own incomplete or slightly confusing thoughts.  Go with me here folks – the purpose of these postings is certainly to be informative first and foremost.  But riding in the backseat behind the information that takes the wheel, I want us [us is me the writer and you the reader] to carry a conversation that leaves room for questions and opinions on all sides of a topic.  Take these posts where you want to go with them, that’s the beauty of this thing here: it’s wine, it’s words, it’s a fostering of wisdom through that discourse.

Let’s carry on.  In Only the Stones, I say this about professional wine reviews:

…while I certainly appreciate what a wine critic has to say, I most definitely do not live and die by the numbers when I am considering the wines that are best for me or best for a consulting client.  This being said, I would never wish for a world of wine where there were no benchmarks and no scores to follow.  For me, scores are a road map for a leisurely journey rather than GPS navigation in heavy traffic to an appointment you’re late for.  There are options along your route and the options are laid out to enhance your pleasure rather than to bring you to your destination with the least delay.

And then I opened up the June 30 2016 edition of Wine Spectator and flipped through a few interesting features, noticed that the cover was about the re-birth of Bordeaux, realized that had little to do with me or most of the wines I drink [Bordeaux is always sending me flowers and boxes of chocolates but I’m in a committed relationship elsewhere….], so…I finally landed in the BUYING GUIDE.  I know, I know, my workday is really starting to sound like such drudgery.  I scan a few Italian scores and wish I drank more Brunello, reading farther I start to salivate for good Ribera del Duero…I’m craving some funky Toro Tempranillo with ballsy tannins now…and….I land in California.  This should be goooood…I can’t wait to see how many awesome Pinots from 2013 are over 90 points…and don’t get me started on the cabs that other critics have been showering with 98, 99, and 100 point scores!  And, there are only 3 Cabs with decent scores.  Aaaaand, there’s not a single California Pinot Noir scored over 89 points.  And…the top 89 point score was for J Piont Noir.  AND then I begin to read the justification for these scores in the text of each and every 89, 88, and 87 point score all the way down the column until my face is making the most ugly resting bitch face I think it has ever made.

Just a few fine examples of statements made by James Laube taken from the June 30 2016 Wine Spectator Buying Guide:WS063016_CoverUS.indd

 

88 LaFolette Pinot Noir Sonoma Mountain Van der Kamp Vineyard 2013 $42  Medium-weight, with ripe plum, blueberry and raspberry flavors, showing a streak of earthiness down the middle that gives this an edgy, tannic texture and a drying aftertastes.  Drink now.  884 cases made.

88 Lynmar Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Freestone 2013 $60  Notes of damp, fresh -turned earth, vanilla and cherry form the core, with drying and gripping tannins.  Drink now.  483 cases made.

88 Saracina Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Day Ranch Vineyard 2013 $38  This Pinot weaves together a complex mix of loamy earth, anise, graphite and dark berry flavors, tilting toward acidity and grippy tannins, with room to grow.  Drink now.  470 cases made.

88 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Burt Williams’ Morning Dew Ranch 2013 $78  An edgy youngster, exhibiting chunky raspberry, wild berry, savory herb, dusty earth and anise flavors, this will benefit from short-term cellaring.  Drink now.  562 cases made.

88 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Precious Mountain Vineyard 2013 $95  Very tight and detailed, with a taut core of mineral-laced red and dark berry, turning somewhat simpler on the finish.  Drink now.  412 cases made.

87 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Yorkville Highlands Weir Vineyard 2013 $58  This is young and unevolved, with dusty, drying tannins and notes of cherry, plum and rose petal.  Should gain with time.  Drink now.  512 cases made.

With my pout turning into an all-out frown I reach the end of the California Pinot Noir reviews and a few thoughts return to my miffed-up mind.  First, I take a mental step back and think:  tiff, you’re just mad that you love Williams Selyem wines and James Laube, a very knowledgeable and experienced wine critic, does not love them as much as you.  Then I read the above reviews again and think to myself:  no, stop.  Every single one of the above reviews [and there were more than just these] references the newly-released wines being youthful, tight, unevolved, and tannic.  Every single review lists some lovely Pinot Noir appropriate characteristics such as: dusty, earthy, wild, savory, mineral-laced, detailed.  Almost every review alludes to the idea that the wines could benefit from some age.  And then every single review ends by blankly stating:  DRINK NOW.

What?

Taking a scenic route here….  When sauce and I try and get from point A to point B with the two of us in a car I’m usually behind the wheel and he mans the GPS thingy on his phone that I don’t like to touch because it intimidates me with all of it’s bossy orders.  That female computer robot voice shouts at me and rattles my shaky feminine driving skills.  Turn right in 800 feet. Your destination will be on the left.  I turn right, I look left, it’s a deserted railroad yard.  I’m downtown LA in a deserted railroad yard.  We’re going to be late to the tasting.  I followed the bossy voice.  I swear I did every single step!

GPS Map

Back to the Wine Watcher [ahem] Wine Spectator.

I understand this publication to be focused towards consumers who wish to enhance their wine experiences, further their wine knowledge, and perhaps gain a bit of confidence in the rings with the rest of the wine world.  Professional scores and reviews can [and should] be a helpful guide in the process of benchmarking your current collections and tastes while finding new wines to add to your repertoire.  This scenic route can be a pleasing journey but at roads end I would still like to arrive at my intended destination. In this case, I’m starting to get the feeling that I’m going to look up and find myself deserted in the aisle of a big-box-o-wine store with James Laube shouting at me to DRINK IT NOW!  While my feminine driving skills are a bit shaky [shh, this is a fib, I’m quite a confident driver just don’t tell sauce that], my wine skills don’t feel new or unfamiliar to me.  My most recent trip through the Buying Guide gave me the impression that I’m completely lost on my wine journey and perhaps I’m partly at fault for using a passerby in the wine world like a GPS rather than simply enjoying the scenic path that their suggested route sent me off on.

Columbus Map of the World

By hearing opposing opinion on wines I feel strongly about will I gain insight and broaden my own point of view?  Only if I have confidence in the validity of the opposition.  Only if I have respect for their argument.  I do feel that I have a desire to be constantly learning and improving but I don’t feel that I will accomplish that through reading contrite and condescending accounts on wines from a critic that is contradicting both his own words and the words of the publication for which he writes.  My respect for this sort of wine commentary is gone and here’s just a small example to illustrate why.  Back on November 20, 2013 the 2013 Vintage Report for California was posted to WineSpectator.com only to state:

Winemakers from Santa Barbara to Mendocino report that this year’s growing season was golden for most parts of the Golden State

While I may not always agree with scores and reviews, I want to at least find them to be a helpful guide for both myself and for consumers.  I want to know that the information will be useful.  I want to know that the professional critics will reach beyond opinion and provide well-informed and seasoned point-of-view insights into the wines they write on. In asking these things, I feel I have been let down after reading one contradiction after the next on a handful of incredible 2013 California Pinot Noirs.  Don’t tell me that a wine is edgy, youthful, tight, tannic, unevolved, and would benefit from cellaring and then tell me to DRINK NOW.  Please don’t tell me that a wine is detailed and complex and then list off amazing descriptors that support this statement and then tell me that while the wine should gain (with time) to DRINK NOW.  And please, don’t tell me in the Vintage Report that 2013 is Golden and then in 2016 rate a string of 2013 wines as good, very good but….DRINK NOW.  These last couple of turns that should have me arriving at my destination after I took the suggested route of a Wine Rubbernecker have dropped me off at a column of wines scoring Very Good but not good enough to be considered Outstanding or Classic from a vintage deemed “Golden”.  I guess we need go Platinum for anything to reach above 90 points in California for Mr. Laube.  My dearly beloved California Winemakers, I say to you all, you have my heart in your Pinot Noir wines ’til death -whether Bronze- or Platinum-level scores.  And I know that you know that only the stones will remain.


More for your reading pleasure…

The 2013 Vintage Report on California from WineSpectator.com

Only the Stones from myself on tiffandsauce.com

 

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At Bucher Vineyards

Going by most of the charts and timelines that attempt an illustration of the lines dividing one generation from the next, I’m technically a millennial [GASP!] and Sauce is a GenX-er [eye roll].   This would explain why his taste for music far exceeds my taste for noise but it is still a mystery why he is so much better at social media than I am.  Somehow, someway we have managed to come together on most topics concerning world politics, we don’t argue over religion, and we have a deep respect for each others’ work ethic.  So it seems that the dividing lines between generations are not as straight or narrow as one would initially assume.

Naturally, I am in favor of blurry generational lines because they allow me to extricate myself from membership in the “worst” generation.  But wait, weren’t GenX-ers well-hated by the Boomers?  And Boomers just being “kids these days” as their parents and grandparents wagged a finger in their direction?  It is a perpetual cycle that we search for disdain – we cannot approve of the next because it makes ourselves the last.  It is so hard to face the imminent arrival of our own irrelevance.  And this is where I have to drag myself away from the pull of negativity, force myself to stop categorizing, and adjust my focus to see the good [deep breath] – the good in the millennials.

Lucky for me, a breath of fresh air and a change in the view are just the thing for accentuating the positive and encouraging a new perspective.  And what do you know?  Sauce and I found ourselves rolling through the bucolic hills and dales of the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County.  Bucher.Cows-and-vineyard-looking-east-panoVineyards as far as the eye can see…wine tasting…Pinot Noir!…and…Dairy Cattle?  [Grrr].  Sauce, this better not be one of your crazy cheese things.  As we turn up the long drive bordered with white rail fencing and fringed with electric green grass my reality snaps into focus; this is not the midsummer Pinot Forum jaunt of my pre-children years.  It’s January.  It’s pouring rain.  The seats around me are occupied by Nona, Sauce, and our toddler happily munching his second packet of fruit snacks and it’s only 10am.  I just realized I’m the mom.

Stepping out into the persistent drizzle, we were greeted by Diane Bucher at Bucher Farms / Bucher Vineyards & Winery.  Her wide smile was welcoming as she invited us to explore the family farm

Bucher.KalonCrossing.
Mr. Hollywood visits the Bucher Farm.     

operation and familiarize ourselves with the lay of their land.  After a few layers of rain gear, a pair of rubber boots, and my brief but earnest explanation of why not to jump in the puddles next to the cows, we were off on our adventure.  Simply stated, farm life is every three-year-old little boy’s dream.  There are large vehicles, tall haystacks, cows that moo, and doggies that bark.  I don’t think that Sauce and the mini Sauce could have been happier with the sights, sounds, and even the smells of a working Dairy.  They were in their element together and only the offer of a warm & dry seat in front of a glass of Pinot could pull the Sauce from his frolic with the milk maidens of Bucher.

 

Back up the hill we climbed and ducked under the flying Swiss flag to find ourselves around the table with Diane & John Bucher and daughter, Hannah.  John’s firm but friendly handshake was a familiar reminder of his likewise personality  – we had met a number of times over tastings down the road at the Williams Selyem winery featuring the single vineyard line-up of Pinots that includes a bottling from the Bucher Vineyards that stretch out before us just beyond the panoramic window across the room.  John pours us his Rosé of Pinot Noir to start with and as we taste through his line that includes an unoaked Chardonnay, the barrel fermented Rio Oro Chardonnay, and three smashing Pinot Noirs, the conversation drifts between cows, grapes, land, cheese, business, and Family.

My happy, warmed up, cow-whispering toddler is busily crayoning his next masterpiece on the broad antique living room table that Hannah Bucher has so graciously spread with layers of newspaper.  My mother-in-law has a contented I just sipped amazingly creamy Chardonnay grin across her lips.  There’s not a cell phone in sight (save for the dormant device in front of Sauce – discreetly set to silent mode).  My pencil is down and my glass is up.  There is a millennial amongst us and my aggravation meter isn’t zipping off the charts.  It’s actually not even registering – my inner grouch is flatlining here folks.  There is a pair of vibrant, attentive, curious eyes across the table from me and they are attached to a twenty-something that is fully engaged in a conversation about agriculture, family-owned businesses, and social media [of course].

I understand that there is a major gripe about the work ethic of millennials and I am certainly guilty of proliferating this complaint; but I’m turning a long slow corner.  The further I navigate into my own journey of parenthood the more obvious it becomes that the state of the next generation [whichever generation that may be at present] is a  direct product of those who came before [read: those who are griping].   The deeper I dove into the conversation at The Bucher Farm, the more inspired I was to take ownership of my parenting possibilities and to proliferate forward thinking with this next generation.  Accepting responsibility for the future generation seems to be a daunting task but there is no other way unless we plan to stop time in it’s tracks.  How will I make it through this?  My advice to myself is this:  when this task seems overwhelming I will make pit stops along the way to take in the view and adjust my focus.  These diversions will include places like the vineyards of the Russian River Valley and The Bucher Farm.  These backroads jaunts will lead to conversations with people like Hannah and Diane and John.  And these talks will continue to bring new perspectives that drive us to seek out the good – the good people, the good wines, and the good in ourselves.

Bucher.Family.jpg
The Bucher Family

 

 


More Reads & Sites:

Get Inspired by Hannah Bucher – here’s her Bio.

Virtually Visit Bucher Vineyards

What’s that Williams Selyem wine we mentioned?

Get yourself a bottle at Falling Bright.

 

 

At Mending Wall

Walking the rows of fermentation tanks at the Mending Wall winery, the first impression is a sense of meticulous order that is borderline sterile.  It’s unnerving at first.  Sauce and I are standing in this enormous space holding glasses that contain a few splashes of Stone on Stone and our breaths come a little shorter.  Our gazes shift from tank to floor to expansive rafters back to tank then floor…our reflections stare back from either of these…then back to the wine in our glasses and then our eyes meet.  I’m thinking that I should have made the bed this morning and maybe I could have pressed a shirt for Sauce.  My mind starts making it’s way down a to-do list of things I have done only half-way or half-heartedly – it’s one part accomplishment and two parts failure with a dash of try again.  Just before I get to the part where I hyperventilate and start rethinking my career path I’m snapped back into the moment where Sauce is saying something to me about the wine…

Mending Wall Tryptic

Ah yes, we’re here for the wine – not for a regressive therapy session of self reflection.  Going deeper into this realm of wine greatness, we arrive in a barrel room that is stacked with the wines we’ve always wished for.  It’s here that the calm that lies beneath the powerful perfectionism is revealed.  A great sense of “anything is possible” fills the space that comes into focus as a blank canvas ready to become a masterpiece.  Self-consciousness subsides and I’m able to take part in a wine experience that flirts with the idea that creativity, genius, and methodical precision can come together for a common cause.  So this is Thomas Rivers Brown.

If our count is correct, Robert Parker has awarded 100 points to a Thomas Rivers Brown wines 8 times in the past 10 years.  Wine Spectator has given him the 100 point high-five 2 times.  With recognition like this, most people would have an ego to match, but it seems that Thomas maintains a certain sense of modesty about his wines.  He expresses a genuine appreciation for the mystery of the vine and a deference to what nature provides.  Seeing wine as a product of place, he cultivates his relationships with the vineyard sites he works with and matches the wine to the site.  He has seen much success from his patient and persistent practice in both Napa and Sonoma on sites such as Beckstoffer’s To-Kalon vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay from B.Theriot and Pinot Noir from Summa and Boars’ View both on the extreme Sonoma Coast.  We can only assume that there is a certain sense of satisfaction with the wines that have resulted from his work here, yet there is a continuing desire that drives Thomas to continue his search for another challenge.

What could challenge an incredible talent like Thomas Rivers Brown?  Perhaps it will be to seek out new vineyards – cooler climates – unexplored territory.  To continue his relationship with the land by matching grape to location to style.  To discover a deeper intuition with his craft.  And possibly to turn focus to his own label, Rivers-Marie, where he seeks to fine tune the tension between size and surreptitiousness.  Wherever and whatever his discoveries may be, we are confident that the final result will end up swirling in our glasses, showcasing in our gallery, and stealing our hearts.


Pull up a chair and read more….Mending Wall Seats

For a better BLOG on Thomas Rivers Brown: The Terroirist

Winemaker of the Year 2012: Food and Wine

Just more of us… www.tiffandsauce.com

 


Find the Wine

fbLogo125pt  www.fallingbrightwinemerchants.com

 

 

 

Subjective Theory of ValueWine

Back when I was a youthful twenty-something I took it in the ribs a few times from friends and family that would say I had returned to college to get my M.R.S. degree.  Somewhat true <grinning sheepishly>.  However, I did not meet my husband until after leaving Oregon State University and all her splendid Northwestern beauty for the great State of California.  Truthfully, I forced myself into completing my Bachelors Degree – by hook or by crook – just to finish.  I had become notorious for starting things and not reaching completion and I wanted to end that nonsense.  At the same time, I wanted to be able to some day offer a somewhat educated parent to my future child(ren).

I forged my way through a liberal arts degree knowing full well that there was no end “Career Goal” in sight and I will admit that along the way there were some failures.  As in, F for Failure.  Math 119b Survey of Calculus II;  F the first time around and a passing grade on the second try after my instructor was probably so tired of my ignorant questions that he just pushed me through.  Chem 320a Organic Chemistry; no passing grade in sight and the realization that I don’t actually enjoy Math, Chemistry, or Physics and that pre-Med would be a bad idea.  Econ 101?  Only suffered through that course to fulfill a requirement and the whole thing was a bad dream – BUT – I did take away one concept that has stuck with me since that class:  The Subjective Theory of Value.

Before continuing, I will strap on my Helmet to deflect the stones that are certain to be thrown in my direction for the following reasons:

  1. I am not proficient enough in Economics to properly explain the theories associated with this field (so of course, publish my feeble attempts to understand, right?) and…
  2. The way this Subjective Theory of Value ties into a discussion on Wine will make some people cry foul; or just cry.
Class is in session, let us begin.
Value is thus nothing inherent in goods, no property of them, nor an independent thing existing by itself.  It is a judgment economizing men make about the importance of the goods at their disposal for the maintenance of their lives and well-being.  Carl Menger, Principles of Economics
If value exists as Menger defines it, why then do we continue to question the high prices of Cult Wines, First-Growth Bordeaux or Grand Cru Burgundy and then continue into a diatribe/sales pitch about “value wine”? This topic is beaten to a pulp in popular wine media, social media, the Blog-o-Sphere, etc..  and the entire debate has no leg to stand on.  Price is not Value.  Before we get all heated up about wine, let’s consider some other consumer commodities:
Chocolate.  Nestle Semisweet Morsels 20.7 cents/ounce.  Sharffen Berger 62% Cocoa 61.8 cents/ounce.
Coffee.  Yuban Traditional Medium Roast “Premium” Coffee 25.8 cents/ounce.  Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend “Deep Roast” 74.9 cents/ounce.
Diamonds.  Where 1 ounce = 141.747616 carats and an average diamond is about $1500 per carat give or take…we’re looking at about  $212,641.42 per ounce.
Water.  A liter bottle of Evian comes in at about $1.79 making it 5.3 cents/ounce…penny for your thoughts and a nickel for a sip.
The question of price is answered objectively as the above examples convey.  The question of value is subjective…and as explained by Menger, gets a little confusing.  Why pay more for coffee or chocolate?  What was the cost of producing these goods?  Which goods required more labor?  How much is water worth to you?  What value does a diamond represent for you?  Are we lost in the desert and dying of thirst?  Or are we wandering in a proverbial love desert of loneliness hoping to get engaged?  Questions like these will begin to guide you toward your own subjective interpretation of value.
Carl Menger on Screaming Eagle
The last time I put my finger on the pulse of the consumer base in the wine industry, the heartrate was strong and nobody was dying of thirst. But there were plenty of connoisseurs hoping for love at first sip from their next bottle.  My point here is that wine is a luxury product.  And that’s it.  Wine is not a resource that we need for survival (though I treat it as if it were the air I breathe).  It is the Diamond and not The Water in the Paradox.  There’s no “fair and equal distribution of Wine” Act.  There’s no “Price point to make wines affordable for Everybody” Act.  However, there IS fierce competition, a free market, ingenuity, creativity, sustainability, talent, marketing, vineyard designation, oak programs, “Rock-Star” Winemakers, art labels, wax caps, screw caps, original wood cases, Parker Scores, Spectator Reviews, corporate conglomerates, mom and pop shops, and everything in between.  And then there’s you – and your discriminating palate (by the way, it’s not PC to “discriminate”) and hopefully your discriminating consciousness.
YOU will be the one to make the final decision about what a wine is worth to you and what you can afford to pay.  Coming to the realization that a wine you might want is out of your price range is not a reason to tear it down.  That is a promotion of mediocrity and when provisions are made for mediocrity you get people like me who are granted a Passing Grade in Econ 101.  The world does not need more of that – go back and read paragraph 2 to decide for yourself the value of this article, the value of your time, and the value you now place on not promoting mediocrity.
If a wine you want is out of your price range, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, understand that wine is one of life’s Beautiful Luxurious Pleasures, and go find a bottle that gives you enough pleasure per dollar for you to consider it a value.  Then step back from the article/blog post/commentary that is deriding Screaming Eagle and Lafite, compose yourself for one second, and understand that the prices for wines like these are ridiculous because enough people paid them.  <I will enter a plea here that we not digress into a dialogue on “supply and demand” as that is such a sophomoric approach to this discussion.>  We are all well aware that scarcity drives up the price of a rare bottle.  In truth, the price paid for a status bottle of wine was a simple expression of the consumer’s perception of value – and they were entitled to it.  No sooner could we make everybody drive a Honda Civic and not a Mercedes or everybody have bare walls in their mud hut rather than Monet in their Mansion, then we could make every wine drinker swirl <insert your favorite value wine here> in their glass.  And thank God for that!
If the intention is to share ideas about which inexpensive wines drink better than their price point, and a popular opinion grows on that shared idea, then go with it.  But if the aim is to convince an ultra premium category buyer that they won’t find value in the rare or exclusive bottlings they are purchasing then you might as well be talking to an empty room. This category of wine consumer does find value in obtaining nearly unobtainable wines and they quite possibly spend a fair share on less expensive wines that they enjoy for another purpose as well.  So why is there a bully push to get the biggest supporters of wine out of the game?Inexpensive wines that cost conscious consumers enjoy are not mutually exclusive to astronomically expensive Wish Wines that are collected and curated and occasionally chugged down with wild abandon.  Both price categories can exist in the same economy and really one has little effect on the other.
The bottom line is that all wine should not be equal.  All wine should not be the same.  All wine should not be priced under a cap that a cohort of wine writers deems to be appropriate.  Sitting around speculating about what that saturation point in the market will be is simply a waste of good wine drinking time.  One man’s affordable luxury is another man’s swill and vice versa.  And that, my friends, is my Subjective Theory of Value as it pertains to wine and I encourage you to continue the debate and commentary.  Should name calling (Elitist!) and Stone-throwing commence, I’ve still got my helmet on.
If you haven’t had enough, please enjoy the following
Elite Wine Bashing Posts for your Reading Pleasure:
-Richard Hemming for Wine Searcher gives us “Hemmings Rule” where if you love expensive Bordeaux you will find more “value” in spending less on a Bordeaux varietal wine from another region where the most expensive wine costs less than 10 times the price of its cheapest equivalent. Sounds simple, right?
-Mike Steinberger rails away on how he agrees with Keith Levenberg of Noble Rot Magazine that Sine Qua Non wines are vile and disgusting and more expletives than you can say in front of a sailor.  Steinberger then continues to say that critics who give high ratings to both wines like Sine Qua Non and wines like La Tache and other DRC are a huge farce and are misleading consumers.  Don’t miss the comments section where somebody actually asks, “Do we really need all these different wines from everywhere?” <— is your Screen Name “The Wine Nazi”?
-W. Blake Gray ponders the mysteries of Screaming Eagle and passive aggressively calls for transparency from a Cult Cabernet producer.  There is hope…by #10 We don’t know if Screaming Eagle wines are worth the money… Gray is beginning to understand the Subjective Theory of Value.
-Chris Mercer for Decanter.com reports on an incredible wine sale and at least sticks to facts and information.  A breath of fresh air.

Cultivated: Growing Our Gratitude for the Farmer

Kalon at Laguna Beach on the evening of September 28, 2015 - Total Lunar Ecclipse Blood Moon

The Blood Moon rose over Laguna Canyon as we wound our way back towards the city lights after a late September evening on the beach.  It was nearly in total eclipse with a sliver of red peeking out.  The universe gifts us with moments like these.  We take notice and as the moment passes it may fade from the memory until the next time nature jostles our mind a bit.

To be closer to the Earth or closer to the glories of nature is an aspiration for many, myself included.  But reality for most of us is that we dabble here and there in the natural world.  We rake up the leaves.  Refresh the tired herb garden.  Cultivate a small patch of veggies in our backyard gardens.  These small connections with the dirt serve to keep us grounded, both literally and figuratively speaking.  It is my trials and errors at making a better connection with the earth that serve as natures little reminder to me that I should have a greater appreciation for those who achieve this connection on a grander scale – farmers.

Lee Martinelli Sr. Farming Jackass Hill Vineyard

It’s so gratifying that our four children really like being part of a family farming operation and are dedicated to seeing it continue for generations to come.  I am so proud that our family works together in this agricultural business and plays together as a family.  -Lee Martinelli Sr.

There is no better time to celebrate the life and work of those who cultivate the earth than at the close of Harvest.  Most California vineyards are through the pick, Oregon finishing up as well.  For winemakers the fun is well under way.  For the growers, most express a sense of calm or feeling of relief that their fruit is in and the season is drawing to a close.  The calm will be but a small pause before looking forward to the next task, the next chore, and natures constant string of small nudges to jostle the mind.

For those who make their life of the land – the farmers – these nudges are taken in such stride it’s almost as if nature was but a cadence keeping the time.  They can show calm in the face of adversity.  They find peace and tranquility when the task at hand is insurmountable.  Their existence is at the mercy of nature – we all are but some of us refuse to live by that mercy – and they accept this arrangement with humility and grace.

Donnie Schatzberg of Precious Mountain Vineyard

I think what needs to be changed is the sustainability and farming practices have to be more widely accepted.  Humans are not the only creatures on this planet you know, we have to share it.  -Donnie Schatzberg

We’re not waiting until Thanksgiving to be Thankful.  We’re thankful now for the people who still find value and purpose in cultivating the land and we’re Thankful to the God who has made it so.  We will continue our trials and errors in our own gardens as well.  Perhaps these small rituals really can be big victories for the soul if we capture them and transpose them onto other areas that might feel barren.


Related Reads:

The Martinelli Family on the History of Their Land

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Kalon at Laguna Beach on the evening of September 28, 2015 - Total Lunar Ecclipse Blood Moon

Memory of Taste: exchanging a Kiddie Cone Moment for a lifetime of Sense(s)

 

Taste Memory

There was (still is?) a little roadside hamburger stand in Wallowa, Oregon where my mother would stop in with a car full of us kids for a post-game treat on our way home from the softball field.  As I begin the telling of this story, the voice of Sauce is in my ear reminding me, “You have told me this story a million times”.  Perhaps I have.  But I will tell it again.

As we age (like a fine wine of course), this repeated story telling in an almost ritualistic fashion assures us that we’ve still got that glimmer of memories past.  That we came from somewhere.  And that we’re possibly even going somewhere.  We see children practice this ritual in a similar fashion.  Our three-year-old son tells us over and over a recounting of his daily events – trivial, complex, pleasant, and disturbing – it is all captured in his mind’s eye.  The most trivial usually being bathroom and bodily function related.  A more complex story covering emotions, questions concerning the universe and it’s existence, and long scenarios beginning with “once upon a time”.  He is comforted in his relationship to his narrative.

Going back to The Little Bear.  There was a vanilla soft serve kiddie cone for dessert.  Their signature touch was a red gummy cinnamon bear on the top.  It looked so appealing in that red-on-white cherry on top of a sundae sort of way.  But it tasted like – FIRE!

A few decades later, the fire has settled down into a warm bed of coals and I find a cinnamon gummy bear to be a sticky sweet nostalgic confection.  So where does this road lead me in terms of my Memory of Taste?  It is but a short side jaunt on the larger supersensory highway of a Lifetime Palate.  Retelling The Little Bear story in my own mind, and out loud just to tickle the Sauce nerves, reminds me that my best and most highly sensitive reception of taste was when I was a little girl, a baby even.  Where something could be so delicious – or so offensive – that it would stick.

So that’s it? We have lost the sharp sensory abilities of our youth?  The best wine quaffing opportunities passed us by when we were but babes on the breast?  Not entirely.   While I have not gone deep enough into the depths of science, I have a lukewarm assumption that as we age our perception of aromas and flavors does dull.  However, if we tune into the world around us, our bank of sensory memories continues to expand which in turn gives us a greater capacity for interpreting the sensory perceptions we receive.  To keep a sharp palate, we exercise beyond the physiology of tasting and smelling to log in to a longer term memory bank what otherwise would be a very short term experience.

And the how…It’s all just a presence of mind.

There are no “5 Easy Ways” or “10 Simple Steps” coming up, but rather suggestions for how your everyday sensory experiences can be heightened just by being present in the moment.  Take yourself on mental field trips.  Go to extremes and then contrast them.  Try a few versions of the following:

  • a hot & dry place and a cold & dry place (think desert vs. tundra)
  • a cool & damp place and a warm & damp place (think Redwood Forest vs. Tropical Rainforest)
  • a very empty space (think Vacant parking lot or warehouse or an open field)
  • a very crowded space (think New York subway/sidewalk, Disneyland at Fireworks, Costco on Saturday, the I-5 any second of any day)
  • a modern place (think Art Museum or Luxury Car Showroom)
  • a rustic place (think Horse Stable, Mountain Lodge, Roadside Hamburger Stand, Tombstone Arizona)
What did it smell like?
What was the intensity level of the aromas?
Now take those observations down in a mental note and return to them on your daily path.  If you shop a farmer’s market tune into the smells of the fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  When you step into a coffee shop for a quick chat over an espresso – stop and smell.  When you go for a jog, a ride, a row, a walk with your dog, or whatever is your choice of winding down – breath in.  Taking notice of the scents in your surroundings is building your memory bank for future reference.
Then go and uncork that bottle.  Follow those truly simple “3 Easy Steps”:
swirl, sip, repeat

If the smells and tastes from your glass transport you into your Memory of Taste, then congratulations, you have arrived at your wine destination.

More Places, Smells, & Memories for your reading and viewing pleasure:

Wine For the Ages: Tasting in Emoji

Emoji of Sine Qua Non Rose

Are tasting notes simply a matter of taste?

It seems that the more I read and write tasting notes for wines the deeper I go into experiencing wine on another level.  Captivating prose flows from the bottle to the lips to the page as I fall in love with every nuance of whatever happens to be in the glass.  Of course I make every effort not to sound repetitive, not to be too technical, not to be over the top fantastic in describing fermented grape juice.  After all, we are all short on time and very busy indeed.  So much of our stimulus is visual, quick and simpler to process on the go.  If we want to keep up in today’s market, we have to stay fresh and lively.  So in an Ode to Jimmy Kimmel’s interpretation of current events through Emoji, I give you …

TASTING NOTES IN EMOJI

2012 Walter Hansel Chardonnay, Cahill Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA

Antonio Galloni calls Walter Hansel “some of the most consumer friendly wines readers will come across ANYWHERE in California”, and we can’t agree more. When tasting this wine blind, I almost always place a higher value on it and then get a pleasant surprise at the true price. But numbers aside, the Cahill Lane shows all of the richness of Russian River Valley Chardonnay through a pure and simple use of the Wente Clone exclusively on this site. Brioche, buttered and topped with a dollop of apricot preserves, comes to mind. – Falling Bright notes

OR

Emoji of Walter Hansel Chardonnay
Chardonnay, Simplified.

2011 Behrens Family Winery “Spare Me” Cabernet, Napa Valley CA

Succulent raspberry and black cherry give way to hints of tobacco, cedar, and violets. The beautiful perfume that Petite Verdot brings to the aromatics is not lost in the mix. -FallingBright Notes

OR

Emoji of Behrens Family Spare Me Cabernet
Cabernet but less Complicated

2012 Booker Sweet

Perfectly ripe tropics – pineapple, mango, passion fruit – an unctuous core finishing on a high note. There is no reason not to enjoy a sip of Sweet with a nibble of cheese – something semi-hard to hard like Pleasant Ridge Reserve or Vella Dry Jack. -Falling Bright Notes

OR

Emoji of Booker Sweet Dessert Wine
Just Desserts

2010 Sine Qua Non “That Type of Rosay”

Ridiculous strawberry, sage and underbrush.  A full-bodied meaty expression of Grenache and Syrah with complexity, depth, and a crisp dry finish. -Falling Bright Notes

OR

Emoji of Sine Qua Non Rose
Delicious in Tiny Pictures

Next time you feel like your tasting notes are getting over the top and under your skin, just check back in with us for the short notes on what we’ve been tasting.  We will be sure and give you the small picture(s) so you can make wise use of your time to focus on the Big Picture.

Enjoy what’s in the glass and send us a note on what you’re tasting – Emoji Style of course!

Related Articles / Blogs

Jimmy Kimmel & Brie Larson Emoji Movie

The Underground Wine Letter – Laughable Wine Descriptions

The Black Label – 10 Most Ridiculous Wine Descriptors

Visit The Shop:  Falling Bright