Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympic Spirit(s)

What if the medals won by wines actually meant something?
With the 30th games of the Olympiad now underway, my television will be on at all times, showcasing young people in peak-physical condition participating in a collection of competitive sport, meant to spread goodwill worldwide.

Sitting on my couch, observing the physical perfection of superior athletes who likely spend very little time on the couch, I immediately feel inspired to raise my game, go out for a run, eat better, and make positive changes in my life...

...and then I get to thinking about how I can incorporate booze into watching the Games.  Being a man of purity of focus, the latter consumes my thoughts and energies.  "Wasn't I supposed to exercise or something?  Nah, I'm good-looking enough."  Either that, or I've long ago given up.  Leave the washboard abs to those young bucks in the Olympics.  Sleek, swimmer's build looks ridiculous in a Tommy Bahama shirt anyway.

But I digress.  Every four years (two, if you count the Winter Olympics, kind of the "New York Mets" of Olympic games), countries around the world present their greatest champions to compete for gold and best-represent said homelands.  Which got me to pondering:  if each country could just put one wine forward to challenge the rest of the world's wares, which bottles would complete the field?  No "one red, one white, one rosé" or any diplomatic crap like that.  One shot for each country to flog its best wine.

We're not talking about the contrived, everyone-gets-a-prize medals from hundreds of wine "competitions" around the country.  These accolades would result in the kind of national pride one wants to shove down other countries' throats.  One wine in the world gets the gold.  One gets the silver.  One, the bronze.  The rest of the countries can suck it.

Sorry, Jamaica.  We're talking wine, not bobsledding.  You're hosed.  And with all due respect to the host nation(s) of Great Britain, I'm not allowing Bacchus into this competition.  Just the best of the best gets invited.  You'll get consideration when I do the "fish n' chips Olympics" (pending).

Let the parade of nations begin (and the parade of controversy):
  • Argentina - With all due respect to the monolithic Mendoza Malbec, Torrontés Riojano from Salta is uniquely Argentina's own.  Somewhat creepily, I also feel it would look good playing beach volleyball.
  • Austria - While I'm cheering for underdogs Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch (the red-skinned stepchildren, if you will), Grüner Veltliner from Wachau/Kremstal/Kamptal muscles its way through the qualifying.
  • Australia - Shiraz is king here.  An easy pick?  McLaren Vale?  Barossa?  I'm going to throw a boomerang (I wanted to say "throw a curveball", but at least respect my regional metaphor) and go with Eden Valley Riesling.  Have had some stunners from there.
  • Chile - I love some of the stuff coming out of Casablanca Valley, but I have to concede to Chile's adopted only son, Carménère.  From the Maipo Valley.  But not the crappy stuff.  The good stuff that's hard to find.
  • France - Tough call.  Lots of champion athletes of Gallic stock.  I've had Chassagne-Montrachet and Meursault that have almost made me cry (almost... I'm too tuff to cry).  Sauternes can be a thing of beauty.  The Loire and Rhône are breeding grounds of excellence.  Bordeaux and Burgundy are as decorated as Mark Spitz.  But Champagne- especially great, grower Champagne, is unlike anything else on Earth.
  • Germany - I like saying "Bernkastler Badstube".  And if there's Eiswein from there, I'm slapping it in a speedo.
  • Greece - The birthplace of the Olympics has been making wine for a long time.  Much of it bad, but the training program has been on the rise lately.  Traditionalists would say Retsina, but we can use that to clean the locker room afterwards.  Rather, I want to nominate minerally, almost-salty Assyrtiko from Santorini.
  • Hungary - Tokaji Essencia.  Like a ZJ, if you have to ask, you can't afford it.
  • Italy - I've narrowed it down to Barolo, Amarone della Valpolicella, an Brunello di Montalcino.  Reluctantly, going with the latter... Italy's most rustic and classic grape expressed in its most ethereal form.
  • New Zealand - Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but there are some solid Pinot Noirs, too.  I'm not sure the Kiwis have enough firepower to compete on the international super-stage (being known for phenomenal value wines), but they'll always have the toothbrush fence.
  • Portugal - You may pay more for some amazing vintage Port, but 40-year Tawny will always perform.
  • Spain - It's not the most expensive, nor the most age-worthy out of a sea of wine in Spain, but I've heard whispers about the Albariños of Rias Baixas.  You know, the ones they don't send over here.  I want those.
  • United States - ARGHHH.  It's easy picking the other countries.  I don't really care about them. Call me a xenophobe or an isolationist.  But what am I sending to London to represent my home nation?  Many call Zinfandel America's own.  But it's really a genetic equivalent of Croatia's red grape, Crljenak Kaštelanski.  About as American as the U.S. team's opening ceremony uniforms.  Norton is certainly a purely American grape, but the finest of Augusta, Missouri on the international stage isn't scratching me where I itch.  I think I'm going to pull a 1980 and boycott the U.S. team.  Or, let's pump wine up with some anabolics and submit Bourbon.
Honorable Mention (countries who could put up an accolade-worthy wine):  Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Israel, Macedonia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Uruguay.

Disagree?  Make you arguments.  I will be too lazy to respond.  Sitting on the couch takes a lot out of me.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Out of the Ashes?

I don't want to say that I was ready to shut it down.  I like to run things into the ground (be that automobiles, running shoes, revealing cut-off jean shorts, etc.).  But I always told myself I'd stop posting once it became "work".

Well, it did for a while.  Having left my previous industry, where thinking about wine was an "escape", and jumping wildly into an industry where thinking about wine is part of the job description, my evenings no longer required a need to forget the matters of the day and engross myself with the distraction and rejuvenation of hobby.  I actually enjoyed what I was doing during the day.

So, what was the purpose of the blog at this point?  I think I originally (at least in part) put it together to make more connections in the wine business.  Mission accomplished... lots of new contacts, and no shortage of new, wonderful friends.  I wanted to learn more about wine.  Certainly a never-ending endeavor, but that- too- is a goal that has been met.

It's hard to remember, but I think I was excited at the prospect of getting free wine.  All greatly appreciated, but this is no place for another collection of wine reviews.  Too many other options there, most of them not something I want to read (though I'm happy folks are turned on by wine and want to write about it.  Go nuts and to hell with the naysayers!).  Plus, the expectation of wine reviews from the providers of said samples is more than I can bear.  I don't blame them, but that model turns this blog from my own little piece of cyberspace into an endorsement gang bang that I don't control 100% (or, at least that's the way I feel about it).

So, knowing that I wasn't fishing for samples, had other avenues to learn about wine, no longer needed an escape from the grind, and (long ago) gave up on the idea of generating a stream of advertising revenue (also, a way to lose control of my site), the only reason to continue the blog going was because I like to write.  And, as personal as blogs can be, and as much as we say that we're not seeking attention, I love and dearly appreciate being able to connect with the few people who like what goes on here.  Self-absorbed or not, making someone laugh, teaching someone something he didn't previously know (in, hopefully, an approachable way)... well, that all makes me feel good.  I'm not expecting accolade, or attention from popular media, blog awards, comments, reposts, or any of that.  I know who's out there who digs my stuff, and keeping them entertained; adding a perhaps a bit of humor to their days, is all I could ever hope for.

What I'm getting at is:  I don't know how often I'll post.  I'd rather post less than force some garbage.  But, the blog's not going anywhere.  The phoenix has risen from the ashes, and may return to ashes, only to rise again at another point in time.

Thank you for reading, through the sparse times and the flush.  More coming, whenever that elusive muse hits me.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Great White Sharks love to eat people, and they're baiting us in with wine (and I have the proof!)

ATTENTION:  If you drink wine, this post may save your life.

Are elephant seals being mistaken for Robert Parker?  Or, the other way around?
Forget the French Paradox.  All the medical study suggesting that a little bit of wine may be beneficial to your health.  All that crap is a bunch of dinky doo, propagated to sell health magazines and bottles of wine.  Wine- in fact- is the deadliest of all beverages.  It will most likely kill you before your time.  Drinking wine is- without a shadow of a doubt- extremely hazardous to any human being's health.

There have been rumors that this blog was shut down.  Things have gone very stale.  Maybe I got sick of being lost in the shuffle of thousands of other wine blogs.  Perhaps- after nearly five years of pecking away at the keyboard- I'd lost the desire to write.  Or, simply being in the business of wine sapped all my passion for what has now become a widget on a balance sheet.

Bollocks!  For the past several months, I've spent every waking hour painstakingly tracking a correlation between wine tourism and great white shark attacks.  After noticing a swell in stories like this over the past year, my convictions solidified.  Wine consumption is on the rise domestically.  As are  white shark sightings, on both coasts.  My mind began swimming like a foolish California sea lion, as I sifted through data at the National Shark Attack & Wine Tourism Command Center I set up in my garage:

A comprehensive analysis from our collection of massive, 1980's-style super-computers offered the following, indisputable conclusions:

1)  Sharks love to eat people (we already knew this, but confirmation from an expensive bank of 1980's-style super-computers bolstered validity)

2)  People love to drink wine, as evidenced by projected meteoric rise in consumption.

3)  Great white sharks frequent cooler waters off the coasts of California, Oregon, Australia, South Africa, Chile, and New Zealand.

4)  Some of the world's greatest wine growing regions exist near the coasts in California, Oregon, Australia, South Africa, Chile, and New Zealand.

After digesting the data, I took a large, nervous swig from my glass of cool ocean current-influenced Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir.  I detected aromas of cherry cola, red fruits, earth, water, bloodlust, pelagic skin, death...

My hand began to tremble.  My glass dropped to the floor, shattering as if it were my foolish dreams of chugging a bottle of Margaret River Cab while surfing off the coast of Perth.  Now... I knew.


The town of Stellenbosch, epicenter of South Africa's greatest wine growing region, lies a mere 20 miles from False Bay's Seal Island.  Some of California's finest product is grown in Sonoma County, Monterey County, San Luis Obispo County, and Santa Barbara County.  All counties hug the Pacific coast... a coast teeming with hungry, hungry sharks.  Australia sees the most fatal attacks in the world.  Perth, Melbourne, and Adelaide are the closest major cities to the sites of these attacks.  Not at all coincidentally, so are heralded regions like Margaret River, Yarra Valley, Barossa, McLaren Vale, and Eden Valley.

And, of course, Jaws was filmed in Martha's Vineyard, MA.  Conveniently, nearby Long Island's wine industry is on the rise.

It's such a simple, sinister plan the sharks have laid out.  Go to wine country, become inebriated in its beauty.  Then, tuck into a few bottles.  "Wow, the nearby ocean seems so inviting.  Let's take a bottle of this maritime-influenced Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc to the beach and take a dip..."

Scientists claim a seal can elude the attack of a fearsome Great White.  But a seal can't drink a magnum of 16% ABV "cool climate" Bien Nacido Pinot Noir.  Drunken on both hubris and wine, we feel invincible as we sink below the depths, equipped with the awkward, minimal swimming abilities of land creatures.  It's all too easy.  Bellies swelling with fermented goodness, heads swimming with cloudy visions of elusive 2 oz. tasting pours, livers bloated like foie gras...  It's not because we look like seals.  It's because seals look like us that the sharks attack without remorse.

So, dear reader, only because I care about you, I'm offering this advice if you value your life:

1)  Don't drink wine.
2)  Stay the hell out of the water.
3)  Tell your local winery to move inland.  The hot climate will wreak havoc on the wine, but what good is wine if everyone you hope to buy it is dead?

Once the sharks no longer have a steady supply of booze-saturated humans to feast upon, they will go into alcohol withdrawal and resort to cigarettes.  Yet, with the water soaking the tobacco and making the use of lighters and matches futile, the pangs of said withdrawal will be too much for them.  Plus, they won't be able to get on land to buy cigarettes.  And, their flippers can't flick lighters.  And cigarettes are like $8 a pack in California.  And all the California oceans are probably designated "smoke free" anyway.  The sharks will flee.

It has to work.  And it you don't believe me, see if you can find any videos on Youtube of shark attacks that occurred during prohibition.

I didn't find any.