Say It Ain’t So …. Or Perhaps Say It is.

 imposter

I just finished reading a really interesting article in the new wine magazine On The Cusp and in it, they claim to have proof that Pinot Noir is actually the bastard stepchild of Grenache.

Now, a lot of us have known about this information for years, or at least have speculated as such, but concrete  ‘proof’ has just come to life. Professor Henri Brioche from the Bordeaux Oenology School has just published a paper in which he researched vines in the storied Burgundy region of France. He was able to do DNA testing of cuttings from DRC and other leading houses and, lo and behold, the findings show a remarkable resemblance to DNA from Grenache. In fact, it appears that Pinot has been determined to be a cross between Grenache and Merlot.

‘Sacre Bleu!’ could be heard throughout the Burgundy region – from the largest of producers down to those who tend to a single row or less at some of the most desirable vineyards.  A few desperate souls even started to tear out their wines, resigned to the fact that they would have to replant.

Others, including many leading producers, actually embraced the news, stating that the information could not have been more welcomed. ‘We love Grenache’, stated Monsier LeFleur, the head of the Burgundy Growing Cooperative. ‘We feel it has always been superior to Pinot Noir anyway, and now we can all ‘come out of the closet’ and enjoy it out in the open.’

Producers in the Rhone also rejoiced, realizing that they could now justify the ever-increasing prices that they’ve been charging recently.

Watch for follow ups shortly . .  .

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A Lucky Hour . . .

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As some of you may know, I am wearing multiple hats next week when the wine blogosphere descends upon my backyard, the Santa Ynez Valley, for the annual Wine Blogger’s Conference!

First and foremost, I am attending this event for the first time as a blogger for this blog, wineverbiage. I hope to be able to rub elbows with some of the best in the biz, as well as many newbies like me ta boot, to learn ways to make what I say and how I say it more interesting for you, my readerdom.

I am also attending as tercero wines, a small label that produces wines using grapes from leading Santa Barbara County wineries. I’m excited to share not only my wines but my stories and my passion for what I do with those in attendance.

Since that’s not enough, I’ll also be moderating a panel featuring four winemakers who truly are considered ‘living legends’ not only in our parts, but nationally – Richard Sanford, Ken Brown, Rick Longoria and Bob Lindquist. I’ll be a bit of a fanboy here and say that it’ll be a true honor to share a stage with these four.

Yesterday, I got together with Rick and Ken to discuss the panel and what we hoped to accomplish. This, my friends, was my lucky hour for the day! First off, let me come clean – I was about 45 minutes late for the meeting – no Bueno whatsoever . . . but in true winemaker fashion, I entered a room to the two of them laughing and drinking beer. I’m not even sure they noticed I was late!!!

Though I’ve spent some time with these two over the decade I’ve lived in the area, I’ve never heard some of the ‘back label’ stories of these two – and of the other two who will be part of the panel and who were not present – Richard Sanford and Bob Lindquist.

I learned about the Nielsen Vineyard, the first planted in the County post prohibition, and how Mr. Nielsen, a UC Davis grad, had been convinced by those at Davis that quality grapes could not be grown there. What did he do? Approached folks at Fresno State, who told him otherwise – and the rest is history.

We discussed AVA’s old and new, discussed life lessons, grapes, wine, people . . . what an hour.

Why do I bring this up? As a blogger, I feel like I am a storyteller as well. Sometimes I’m more like a joke writer – one liners here and there. But more often than not, I try to be a short story teller – and I enjoy the challenge.

These gentlemen have stories to tell – and then some. They tell their stories each vintage through their wines, but their ‘collective’ stories should not be missed. If you have a chance, reach out to any of them – your time will be very well spent indeed . . .

Cheers!

Pet Peeves . . .

houdini

As many of you know, I wear multiple shirts every day – yep, I do work out and therefore need to change them often 🙂  No, no, I not only have this blog but do have a wine label, tercero wines, and absolutely LOVE pouring my wines for others to experience and hopefully enjoy.

I’ve now had a tasting room for nearly 3 years, and have been pouring at events for about twice that long, and I’ve compiled a list of words or phrases that should be considered ‘off limits’ in tasting rooms:

‘Pour Me Your Best Wine’

‘Pour Me Your Most Popular Wine’

‘I Don’t Like (fill in variety)’

‘I Don’t Enjoy Whites’

‘I Don’t Drink Rose’

Let’s discuss a few of these, if you don’t mind, and hopefully you’ll understand where I’m going with this!

I often times am faced with folks in my tasting room or at a tasting ask me which is my ‘best’ wine. My normal comeback – Do you have kids and, if so, which one is your ‘best’?!?!?

Does it or should it really matter what my (as the winemaker/owner) thoughts are on my ‘best’ wine? I could be like many others and say that it is the one I am trying my hardest to get rid of (and don’t think this doesn’t happen, folks). Or I could say that it’s the most tannic one because I like tannins – but if the customer doesn’t, does that really help?!?!?

Now for the second statement – what in the heck does ‘popularity’ have to do with ‘good’ or ‘meets what you are looking for’?!?!?!? Do you think the ‘NY Times Best Sellers’ are best sellers because they are ‘good’? No – in general, consumers are lemmings and like to be told what to buy and what to like. Well, not in my place – not gonna happen!

In order to not be verbose (!), I’ll only cover one more. I have folks who come in and state that they don’t like a certain variety. My comeback is usually to first ask why? For instance, I am amazed how many folks come in and say that they do not like syrah.  I politely ask them why and the answer is usually that they either don’t like the ‘cherry robitussin’ qualities of a warmer climate syrah or shiraz or they don’t like the pepper associated with a cooler climate syrah – but they only state one or the other. My favorite comeback – I ask them if they like cheese. Who doesn’t like cheese?!?!? But then I ask if they like EVERY single type of cheese they’ve ever had – because by saying you don’t like a variety, to me, is kinda like saying you don’t like cheese as a category at all. This usually works 😉

I’m wondering what some of your ‘pet peeves’ are when it comes to wine and how you ‘handle’ them without being derogatory or condescending. To me, it’s very important not to be, for that’s the ‘usual’ and easy way out – and because of this, our industry is known as ‘pompous’ with too many ‘know-it-alls’ . . .

Cheers!

Is a Name Change In Order?!?!?

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In a few weeks, I will be attending my first Wine Bloggers Conference, right here in my backyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. I am excited to be taking part in this wonderful event in multiple facets – as a blogger, as a moderator of one of the panels, and as a winery pouring my wines at a few of the events.

As I discuss this event with other local winemakers, though, I tend to get the same response – ‘I don’t really take these ‘bloggers’ seriously’ or ‘They don’t really have any impact anyway’ or ‘They just want free stuff”.

Why is this the case? Why don’t wineries see ‘value’ in bloggers? Could it be because of past experience with them? Could it be because of the ease of entry into this group and therefore no real ‘vetting’ to ensure a certain level of ‘quality’ or professionalism? Or could it be because of the name ‘blogger’?

I’m not one for change for change sake, but perhaps the term ‘blogger’ has become even more synonymous with ‘the ugly side’ of writing then any of us could have imagined.  Here is a quote from Urban Dictionary on bloggers:

“Term used to describe anyone with enough time or narcissism to document every tedious bit of minutia filling their uneventful lives. Possibly the most annoying thing about bloggers is the sense of self-importance they get after even the most modest of publicity. Sometimes it takes as little as a referral on a more popular blogger’s website to set the lesser blogger’s ego into orbit.

Then God forbid a blogger gets mentioned on CNN. If you thought it was impossible for a certain blogger to get more pious than he was, wait until you see the shit storm of self-righteous save-the-world bullshit after a network plug. Suddenly the boring, mild-mannered blogger you once knew will turn into Mother Theresa, and will single handedly take it upon himself to end world hunger with his stupid links to band websites and other smug blogger dipshits.” – Maddox

Is this the way that the general public continues to feel about bloggers? And more importantly, is this the way that wineries and wine consumers feel about the term? Is it time to re-evaluate and possibly refer to these writers as, say, writers instead?

Food for thought this morning- curious to hear your feedback . . .

Cheers!

Customer Service – How Much is Enough (or Too Much or Not Enough)?

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When I was much younger than I am now, Nordstrom opened their first store in our area. My oldest brother went down and purchased a suit from them, and remained a happy customer for a long time. Flash forward a few years later – he’d  gained some weight and the suit did not fit him anymore, so he brought it back to Nordstrom – and received a full refund!

This was clearly ingrained in my head as the ‘ultimate’ for customer service. Keep the customer happy – even if it really did not make any sense to. (and yes, I do not believe they should have given him a refund for his weight gain!!!!). Back in that day, Nordstrom set the bar for customer service and, as far as I know, still retains a high level of it.

That said, is it really fair to ‘assume’ a business will go so far out of their way to ‘keep a customer’? This especially pertains to the wine industry, where a ‘subjective product’ may either be ‘damaged’, ‘faulty’, or simply not live up to a customer’s expectations of it.

In many cases, a winery should stand by their products and ‘make things right’. If a product is damaged during shipping, the winery should make right and either refund the money or send along a replacement product. In most cases, the winery will file a claim and recoup their costs as well.

Now let’s say a product is ‘simply faulty’. What in the heck could ‘faulty’ mean in our industry? Could it be excessive amounts of solids or grit, as a famous Spanish winery has experienced in one of their wines and just issued a recall notice for? Could it be that the wine is infected with brettanomyces, a spoilage yeast that causes a wine to smell like a ‘barnyard’ or like ‘band aid’? Could it be that ‘it was just off’, not living up to the expectation of the consumer? Could it be that the ‘cork was bad’ – and I’ve already talked about the plethora of things this might entail from a consumer standpoint.

I’m really curious to hear your thoughts on this issue. I don’t think there’s an absolute right or wrong answer here – to me, it depends (my favorite answer to almost any wine-related question!!!).

Join in and voice your opinions please . . .

Cheers!

Spotlight on Larner Vineyard in the new Ballard Canyon AVA

larner vineyard picture

I normally have a blast writing my own wine blog posts, but every now and then, I come across one that ‘does the job for me’ 🙂

In this case, Cameron Porter has done a fabulous job highlighting the Larner Vineyard, truly a crown jewel among Santa Barbara County vineyards. Chalk Art – the Mineral-Rich Wines of Larner Vineyard, is the blog post, and it is a great read!

This particular vineyard sits on the southern end of the new Ballard Canyon AVA, below other well known vineyard in the area including Stolpman, Beckmen’s Purisima Mountain, Jonata, Windmill Ranch and Tierra Alta. It’s chalky soils provide wines that are truly unique in their flavor profiles – well, at least to me they are!

Cameron does a wonderful job laying out what makes this vineyard unique among its peers – the climate, the soils, the careful understanding of the geology by Michael Larner, a former geologist who decided to go back to school to study viticulture and enology (and whom I am proud to call a former classmate – and a friend!).

For those of you attending the Garagiste Festival this coming weekend, you’ll get to know the area even more as Michael Larner, Mikael Sigouin from Kaena, and I share our wines from the region to compare and contrast them. And many of the producers from the area will be pouring at the upcoming Rhone Rangers event in the San Francisco Bay area the weekend of April 6. (In fact, I’ll be pouring my 09 Larner Grenache at a seminar focusing solely on that variety!!!).

And there will be more – including discussions about the AVA at this summer’s Wine Bloggers Conference taking place here in Santa Barbara County.

That said, it’s best to explore the AVA by either coming up or down here and driving it – or much better yet, by trying a sampling of the wines from the region. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

Cheers!

Would You Like an Ice Cube with That Glass of Red Wine?

red wine with ice cube

I’m just curious what your first reaction is when you hear that first line? Is it ‘outrage’, as in ‘I can’t believe anyone would even THINK of asking that question!’? Is it ‘disgust’ as in ‘I can’ think of anyone ACCEPTING an ice cube with their red wine!’? Is it ‘sympathy’ as in ‘I feel SORRY for that person who would put an ice cube in their red wine.’ Or is it something else?

I was talking with a good friend of mine the other day, and he said that he always thought that putting ice in a red wine was ‘blasphemous’ – until he was in Florida and every glass of red wine he had was served too warm! Guess what he did – yep, added a little ice to it to cool it down . . .

I continue to be amazed out how dated some of the’conventional wisdoms’ are in the wine business – the generally accepted ‘dos’ and don’ts’ that seem to guide so many people. Now, I know many of you are thinking – but that’s not me, I’m really open minded about all things wine.

Really? Let me hear it for white zin!!! Yep, I know many of you are laughing right now – it’s just a knee jerk reaction that is prevalent in the wine biz – both at the producer level AND definitely with consumers. Well, did you know that white zin continues to be one of the most popular wines out there? And no, it’s not just because ‘many wine consumers are uninformed’ . . . a lot of people, wait for it, actually LIKE white zin. You may not, and that’s cool – but it is not cool to look down upon or not accept those who do like it.

There are so many of these conventional wisdoms that I feel need to be ‘re-evaluated’ these days and either discarded or updated. What about the ‘only have white wine with fish’ idea? Can this ‘rule’ be broken?!?!? Heck yeah – I am many of my friends do it all of the time! What about ‘only reds with red meat’? Well, how about a nice glass of white burgundy or perhaps a roussanne – yep, these can and do certainly go with red meats.

What are some of your favorite ‘rules’ in the wine business that you feel need to be ‘broken’ or re-evaluated? Here’s another one to start the discussion – screw caps are only meant for ‘cheaper’ wines or only those wines meant for ‘consumption now’!

Cheers!