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02.02.2009

Messages in a Bottle: What is an Honest Wine?

The other day, in the course of constructing a review, I found myself describing a wine as "honest." And I meant it. But I've been thinking a lot about that word, and what it really means. I believe honesty is important in a wine, and on reflection, I think much of my personal quest, when it comes to what I choose to pay real money to drink, involves the search for the honest wines among the crowd. That crowd, I should say, does not consist of dishonest wines. I'm not deliberately setting up a dichotomy here between the "real" and... continue reading

07.23.2008

Messages in a Bottle: Ode to the Blended Wine

Growing up in America cripples us wine lovers from the very start. Sure, we are born into the land of boundless opportunity, where the dreams and hard work of a vineyard worker can result in the ownership of a winery twenty years later. But unless our parents provide us with a very particular upbringing, we grow up thinking that wine isn't wine unless it has the name of the grape on the front of the label. America and its wine lovers have a varietal bias. There's nothing inherently wrong with an attraction to wines made from a single grape variety.... continue reading

12.05.2006

Messages In a Bottle: Stalking the Ten Dollar Wine

We've been chasing after them for as long as we've had legs to run and the extra brain cells required to do more than avoid falling on our faces; from Nessie to Yeti to Sasquatch to Squid, the allure of mythical beasts has been too strong to resist. They are symbols of the barely attainable, while also being fragments of the deepest hopes and dreams our little brains are capable of rendering. It seems that collectively we have enough hysteria to generate these imaginary creatures ad infinitum, and I'm sure we'd be content with forever hunting ghosts of our own... continue reading

11.04.2006

Messages In a Bottle: What's New in The Wine World

The wine world moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. After featuring it in his song lyrics and pouring it in his nightclubs, Rapper and Def Jam Records president Jay-Z has decided to boycott Cristal Champagne based on remarks from the managing director of the Champagne house that could be interpreted as dissatisfaction with the association between Cristal and the hip-hop crowd. Jay-Z went on to endorse Armand de Brignac Champagne instead, which comes in a gold-plated bottle. Branson B., a Harlem talent manager to many hip-hop stars, has... continue reading

10.10.2006

Messages In a Bottle: Wine Over Time

We all have times of silent reflection, meditation or prayer in which we voice to ourselves things both profound and petty. One of my recurring prayers (there is nothing else it can be called, really) goes something like this: May there never be a time when wine loses its magic for me. Sometimes this feels vaguely religious. I have such faith in the mystical conversion of simple grapes into something that transcends its origins, even as it transcends fruit itself. I give thanks for the magic of aromas of honeysuckle, caramel, mint and chocolate created solely by wood and grape... continue reading

09.08.2006

Messages In a Bottle: Appreciating Wine in Context

What did you think the first time you heard Mozart? Perhaps like me, you had a mother who would play classical music throughout the house on Sunday mornings and smile knowingly when you squirmed your way off the couch rather than sit for another minute listening to that stuff. To your eight-year-old ears, it was boring, complicated and inaccessible: You lacked the context in which to appreciate it. Perhaps as you grew up, though, you started to appreciate Mozart, if not enjoy it; perhaps because you learned more about how to listen to his music. You gained an understanding of... continue reading

08.08.2006

Messages In a Bottle: The Coming Revolution

They say that bees and dogs can smell fear. Those with good noses in the wine world can smell it too; the ground that used to be so firm under our feet is starting to shift and shake. Like the enraptured leader of some doomsday cult predicting the coming apocalypse, I tell you truly: Look carefully, the signs of a wine revolution are all around us! In the past few months, I've had a good Chenin Blanc from India and a nice Cabernet from China. The entry of these wines into the international scene is interesting enough for its proof... continue reading

07.09.2006

Messages In a Bottle: The Cook's Wine Cellar

Whenever people find out that I write about wine, the first question is always "Wow. Do you make a living at that?" The answer, people, is no. The second question (if I get one and people don't smile knowingly and start discussing the weather) varies, usually with the intellect and sensitivity of the individual. Inevitably, no matter how subtle a conversationalist or how knowledgeable a wine lover, the questioner poses some variation of "So what do you like to drink?" Which really, most of the time, means "So what do you recommend for me to drink?" And this is the... continue reading

06.03.2006

Messages In a Bottle: The Better Half of My Palate

I heard my wife say something unbelievable last week. It just sort of popped out, casually, as we were putting the final touches on a simple Tuesday night pasta dinner. "Honey, I'm worried that we're not buying enough good red wine to lay down for the long term." I nearly dropped my plate. This was the wine lover's equivalent to any number of preposterous fantasies: the sports fan whose wife requests a much bigger TV and matching tattoos of his favorite team; the meat lover's vegan girlfriend who suddenly offers to make prime rib at home; or the oversexed Woody... continue reading

05.05.2006

Messages In a Bottle: Trying to Taste a Place

It's Spring now in the vineyards of Northern California. The mustard blossoms yellow between the rows of newly budded vines and the vineyards which were, in some places, underwater just a few weeks ago now resemble their normal selves. Where there is not mustard there are tall green grasses waving in the same rhythms as the apple blossoms, which too are bursting forth with the warming weather. The trees do not yet have many leaves, however, and the green on the vines remains just small sprouts and sprigs, both of which provide the acute observer with an opportunity to... continue reading

04.05.2006

Messages In a Bottle: The Razor's Edge of Wine

That wine is getting better, for the majority of wine drinkers in the United States, can hardly be denied. By and large this means that the millions of bottles that fall somewhere in the five to ten dollar price range and which are purchased overwhelmingly at supermarkets have seen a noticeable increase in quality over the last decade or two. This increase in quality is manifest both in a larger diversity of wines as well as the essential truth that, on the whole, they taste a lot better. This sea change, which has been accompanied by, and which to a... continue reading

03.01.2006

Messages In A Bottle: The Taste Of Honey

Perhaps the greatest singular pleasure of wine for me, should I ever be held at gunpoint and forced to choose one, would be its near magical ability to taste like something entirely different from grape juice. Yes, I cannot deny the myriad rich conversations that tracked deep into the night supported by many bottles of the stuff, or the new friends I can count as a result of my interest in and writing about wine. I revel in the differences that I can sense in a bottle sampled carefully over the years, changing, shifting, always something new. But when it... continue reading

02.06.2006

Messages In a Bottle: Wine, Version 2.0

I'm a man, and a member of Generation X, which among other things means that I'm into gadgets. You might even say I'm as much of a tech geek as a wine geek, though admittedly I'm not driven to try a new piece of technology every week the same way I'm driven to try new wines. I own way more than my share of electronic gizmos, love the fact that I can automate probably 60% of my life using the Internet, and secretly harbor the hope that one day I can get rid of this wallet altogether and just walk... continue reading

01.04.2006

Messages In a Bottle: A Year of Learning

I'm really not one for New Year's resolutions. I've got no list (for you or for me) of must-drink wines for 2006; all those wines on the lists of Top 100 Wines of the Year put out by the glossy wine magazines in the last couple of months are sold out or marked up too high, anyway. There are a few wines in my cellar I need to work through, but I hardly need a resolution to do that, and neither should you. No, at the beginning of each New Year, I like to look back on the prior year... continue reading

12.08.2005

Messages In a Bottle: Wine Holidays

It's that time of year, isn't it? It's just barely December and I can feel the holidays bearing down like the thick clouds that have started the rainy season here in San Francisco once and for all. I watch the effect of these December days marching by on myself and those around me with the sort of perverse interest that we all seem to have in traffic accidents. It's at once totally befuddling and completely natural how much the holidays seem to throw us for a loop. Take me, for instance: Most of the year I contentedly write about the... continue reading

11.11.2005

Messages In A Bottle: Disorientation and Diversity

The dialogue about wine in popular American culture usually fails to rise above a whisper. This is to say that most people don't think about it or talk about it at all. For those to whom a conversation with friends about wine might not be the strangest thing in the world, much of the conversation I overhear in cafés and bars continues to reverberate with movie quotes from Sideways, coupled with either genuinely snide or tongue-in-cheek character assassinations of Merlot. Despite what seems to be a growing interest in wine, the majority of American wine consumers don't bother with the... continue reading

10.06.2005

Messages In a Bottle: The 5 Stages of a Self Education in Wine

In the course of putting on wine dinners, attending and hosting wine tastings, and generally just drinking wine in public, I end up talking a lot with people about wine. Increasingly, many of those conversations are turning towards the subject of "wine education." This means different things to different people, but in general, from novice to expert, people seem to want more of it. They're not necessarily clamoring for their neighborhood stores to start holding classes, or for me to start an online wine university, but they are frequently asking me: "How can I learn more about wine?" After getting... continue reading

09.08.2005

Messages In a Bottle: Characters In The Same Story

The bearded man with the diamond rings, who is nearly bursting the seams of his Armani tuxedo, grabs you around the shoulder with one hand and stuffs a wad of cash in your hands with the other, beaming proudly. The beautiful stranger in the midnight blue gown slips off her string of antique pearls and presses a few into your hand with a wink, saying, "let's cash these in and have some fun tonight." Even the doorman stopped you for a while on your way in, slyly telling you "I've been saving this up for a time like this," and... continue reading

08.10.2005

Messages In a Bottle: The Wine Comedy

This afternoon I poured myself the last of a bottle that had been opened earlier in the week, and wandered to the back yard to relax a little. I must not have slept well the night before, because after a few sips and a few moments in the sun, my eyes became heavy, and their lids fell. I awoke with a start, and found myself alone on a level plain of grey concrete stretching far and away into the distance. Alarmed, I gulped what was left of my tepid wine, presumably warmed by the sun which now seemed to recede... continue reading

07.11.2005

Messages in a Bottle: The Dog Days of Wine

Stacked akimbo in the corner of my kitchen table, now leaning at a somewhat crazy angle, is the two-month-old pile of magazines, journals, newspaper columns, and newsletters about wine. My wife has taken to affectionately calling it "The Monster," but she has no idea really how terrifying it is. She doesn't hear it croaking day after day: "It is summer, and thou shalt drink this." Have you heard this call from the magazine rack at the cafe? From inside your daily newspaper? From that pile of literature under your couch? If not, let me save you the pain, and get... continue reading

06.09.2005

My First Message In a Bottle

I'm very proud to announce something new here at Vinography. Today marks the launch of my position as the monthly wine columnist for Gastronomic Meditations, a recently begun but already great online magazine about the pleasures of food and wine. My column, "Messages In a Bottle" will be a monthly exploration of what I find so compelling about wine and the wine world. I've spent enough time criticizing and bemoaning the state of wine writing in the English speaking world, but now no one can claim that I'm not trying to do something about it. MESSAGES IN A BOTTLE Searching,... continue reading

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This page only has the last sixty entries in this category. If you're interested in digging farther into my archives, you'll want to use the complete list of archives to access my articles by month.

Calendar of Postings

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Most Recent Entries

Messages in a Bottle: What is an Honest Wine? Messages in a Bottle: Ode to the Blended Wine Messages In a Bottle: Stalking the Ten Dollar Wine Messages In a Bottle: What's New in The Wine World Messages In a Bottle: Wine Over Time Messages In a Bottle: Appreciating Wine in Context Messages In a Bottle: The Coming Revolution Messages In a Bottle: The Cook's Wine Cellar Messages In a Bottle: The Better Half of My Palate Messages In a Bottle: Trying to Taste a Place

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

Archives by Month

 

Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.