The Wrath of Grapes

I’m a little bit too excited to see the New York Times take on IPOB, so apologies if
you follow my other social media accounts and have seen this already. And if you’ve diligently read this Tumblr, you probably recall this post I wrote a few months ago.

But this profile really does a great job introducing readers to the concept, the winemakers and the controversies around it, while providing a good understanding of Robert Parker’s influence on the industry – especially in California.

So I’ll just leave The Wrath of Grapes here for you to enjoy.


How Leading Sommelier Heidi Turzyn Helped Change the Dialogue on Women in Wine | Maxim

So Maxim Magazine – the publication known for publishing provacative photos of models and celebrities – posted a piece that doesn’t seem quite right for its demographic. But I’m glad they did.

If someone told me they were publishing a piece on women sommeliers – I would have expected something much different, if not the opposite of what it did.

The story actually tackles the sexism that wine professionals like Heidi face, rather than glorifying them. So I’m posting it here, in hopes of giving it a wider audience. As I suspect, the many women who would also be interested in this piece, may not ever find it. If it hadn’t been for this tweet, I never would have.

Read the story here:  How Leading Sommelier Heidi Turzyn Helped Change the Dialogue on Women in Wine | Maxim

Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth: Unique Wines on the Outskirts of the Rhône

This morning’s daily news roundup on the Terroirist blog points to this profile on Hervé Souhaut, a French winemaker whose wines I’ve only recently tasted. Wine Spectator writer James Molesworth (who I also recommend following on Instagram) sums up these wines like this (added emphasis is mine):

This was my first visit to Hervé Souhaut and Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet, a relative newcomer which has rapidly become a darling among the hipster set for its pepper- and violet-infused unoaked Syrahs.

Does that mean I (too) have fallen in with this crowd? Regardless, I’ve now sipped the St. Joseph Syrah twice, and both times really enjoyed it. The flavors are not overbearing and there’s an elegant not-quite-full-bodied mouthfeel. It won’t stop you if you’re engaged in conversations with friends, but it has enough interest that when you’re ready to take a break from the mindless chit-chat, it will give you something to pay attention to and more importantly, smile.

You know that feeling when you sip a wine and a grin slowly takes over your face while a warmth makes it way down to your belly as you let out a quiet sigh of happiness? Yeah, that one.

If you’d like to know more about these wines, Molesworth does a good job at introducing the reader to Mssr. Souhaut, and discussing the 2013s.

Contrary to my post earlier this week about the “ecology” of oak, these wines do their best to avoid the stuff:

“I just don’t like the taste of oak, and don’t want the wines marked by oak,” said Hervé with a light shrug.

That’s alright with me: Sometimes you feel like an oak, sometimes you don’t.

Read the full story here: Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth: Unique Wines on the Outskirts of the Rhône

Pop Chart Lab –> Design + Data = Delight –> The Genealogy of Wine

Illustration: Pop Chart Lab –> Design + Data = Delight –> The Genealogy of Wine

The folks over at Huffington Post Taste kindly drew my attention to this really cool family tree connecting the hundreds (maybe, more?) of wine grapes. It’s fun visuals like this that makes me wish i had tons of wall space to cover with wine info-graphics.

Working a Wine-Stained Lip to Your Advantage: Gucci Westman’s 60-Second Guide

I discovered this great bit of advice while searching Vogue’s archives for wine-related stories (I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the differences between men and women and their relationships with wine — and how that’s portrayed in the media or in marketing,  but that’s a post and a subject for another time — although if you want to discuss, use my gmail address: itswinebyme).

This is just pure practical advice. I know I’ve been caught more than a few times with some wine blotches on my lips! And with winter coming, it seems like hydration will be even more important! 

Working a Wine-Stained Lip to Your Advantage: Gucci Westman’s 60-Second Guide

This Winemaker Has Been Producing Wine Since Age Five

I stumbled on this article while checking on a Wine Berserkers forum I babbled in last night after opening my first bottle of Bedrock Old Vine Zinfandel. The well-balanced red wine perfectly married fruit and spice and became a wonderful pairing to last night’s pizza. It was one of those moments where I physically had to remove the wine bottle from my line of sight so I didn’t keep pouring another glass. As I commented on an Instagram I posted: #sublime.

Before ever tasting any of his wines, I’ve been interested in Morgan based on his reputation for great wines, hard work, his prolific instagram activity and the the shear curiosity factor: He’s the son of a  famed California winemaker. From the tiny glimpse I can see, Morgan’s out working (and as I just read in this story – studying for the Masters of Wine) and putting passion into his wine every. single. day.

But now I have a new reason to appreciate Bedrock wines, especially as a journalist who spent 16 years at a newspaper. You know those old vines? There’s a bit of history in them. As Jay MacInerney writes:

In 2004 he and his father bought Bedrock, the vineyard we’re strolling through today, and it’s a piece of land well suited to an American history buff. Much of it was planted between 1888 and 1895, when it was owned by millionaire senator George Hearst, the father of newspaperman William Randolph Hearst…. Some 33 acres of his original vines remain, still producing grapes more than 100 years later.

And before you wonder whether these old vines really matter (as opposed to new plantings), Morgan has this to say:

There is also a Darwinian element. If a vineyard has lasted through two world wars, Prohibition, and any number of other things, it must be special, or it would have likely been ripped out.

If the bottle of 2013 Bedrock Old Vine Zin I drank last night serves as any indication, it certainly is a beautiful expression of this special place.

Decanting Bedrock’s Old Vine Zinfandel


Read the full story on Morgan here: This Winemaker Has Been Producing Wine Since Age Five

Wine Enthusiasts Seek Sommelier Bragging Rights

From the Wall Street Journal:

When they could be raising a glass with their friends during their free time, some wine enthusiasts are hitting the books alongside professional sommeliers in order to take a challenging test.

Look! I’m not the only wine fan out there taking wine classes with no idea whether I’ll actually parlay my career toward the wine industry or just keep it as a fun hobby. But unlike the tone of the story’s headline, I don’t intend on taking classes so I can be called a sommelier (besides, I’m also taking classes from a different organization), nor am I doing this for bragging rights. I’m guessing (or at least hoping) there are plenty more people like me than the ego-driven folks the Wall Street Journal assumes in its story. Fortunately, the writer interviews enough enthusiasts who don’t sound like they’re doing this just for the snobbery. And it’s encouraging that many of them found ways to put their new certificates to good use.

For me, these past 5 weeks (tonight’s my last official class until next week when we take the exam), have been an opportunity to widen my knowledge and find ways of becoming a better communicator. I’m desperate for more interesting and intellectual conversations with other wine enthusiasts and winemakers I meet. And the one thing I know from being a journalist: The more information you’re armed with, the better questions you can ask and the more interesting details you can learn.

WSJ has also produced a video to go with their story, which can be read here: Wine Enthusiasts Seek Sommelier Bragging Rights

Why Words Matter

(I really should be labeling this post, Why I’m Obsessed, Part 3 – here’s Part 1 and Part 2 – but it’s a good column that deserves its own posting.)

This is an interesting column. You think it’s about language (and yes, eventually it is), but as you begin reading, you’re hit with a wonderful lesson about Montrachet wines. It immediately resonated with one of the reasons I’m obsessed with this industry. Wine is risky: Or as Chateau Montelena’s Bo Barrett quips in the documentary Somm, buying a bottle of wine is always a wager. Now, in a recent Wine Spectator column (also linked from the top of this page), Matt Kramer provides a fabulous example of this:  

Montrachet at its best can indeed be an awe-inspiring experience. But it’s rare. You have to win a trifecta of the right producer, in the right vintage, with the right amount of bottle age (10-plus years) in a cold cellar. If my experience is anything to go by, those are long odds.

So what happens when you’re among the majority who don’t have a breathtaking experience with this $500 bottle of wine? Kramer argues your approach should be in reframing your language (which also changes your expectations). Rather than concentrate on its flavors, he suggests using the word “texture,” which will allow you to refocus how you taste the wine.

In comparison, “texture” is a broader term that, again for me, captures a sense of fruit density, as well as the nature of the tannins in a red wine. As is well-known, tannins are frequently described as being ripe or green; coarse or fine-grained; gritty or silky. Obviously, the nature and quality of tannins will dramatically affect “texture,” as will acidity... Bottom line: I use the term “texture” to encompass the complete tactile experience of a wine.

Just as I enjoyed Kramer writing about risk, I enjoyed this column for two more reasons:

  • His main argument is not just about language, it’s about how to taste. And tasting is not just about flavor. If you’ve been reading this tumblr, then you know identifying flavors is the hardest part of tasting for me. It’s everything that’s wrapped into his definition of “texture” – body, acidity and tannins – which I excel at and prefer discussing. And so does he.
  • This column is indeed about words and language! It’s about how to communicate. And that’s what I do. As a journalist for 20 years – who enjoys writing, editing and finding the best way to tell a story – this falls directly into my world. His use of “texture” to taste, is how he suggests telling a wine’s story: “Texture helps tell the tale of a young wine’s future or a mature wine’s lost opportunity,” he writes. 

It’s funny, as I left my class last Thursday, I realized that one of the main objectives in this six-week course is to learn the best way to communicate about wine. It’s what I’ve spent most of my career doing – honing in on the best communication and storytelling methods.

I’m beginning to understand a little better why wine is so fascinating to me. I’m also realizing it may not be such a leap from what I do now.

Why Words Matter