24 Aug 2010
Today’s post is from guest blogger Ben Simons
When I was asked to write a guest blog post for Drink Nectar, I asked myself, “Self, what would Josh do?” I thought about writing something about the business side of wine, some in-depth examination of a trend or business strategy. I decided that I didn’t want to give away all of my business secrets, which would probably take approximately one blog post. Next I thought about opening up the famous Ben Simons’ social media playbook to drop some serious relational marketing knowledge on y’all, but I just couldn’t take the thought of the trail of blown minds that I would leave behind. Then I considered writing a steamy post, laced with sexual innuendo and risqué photos. While obviously stimulating, I just decided that I wasn’t cut out for the field of oeno-eroticism. Finally it hit me, the only way that I could possibly create a post that would live up to the exacting standards that Josh has created here, is to zig where he zags, and go an entirely opposite direction from everything that you normally find on Drink Nectar. I present for your reading pleasure, or something closely resembling pleasure, the unsexy side of wine.
The history of the written word is rife with lusty metaphors comparing wine and sex. You find it everywhere, from the Bible, to Pablo Neruda, and yes, even in wine blogs. For all of its blissful glories, there are also elements of wine that are decidedly unsexy. Mixed in with the sultry and seductive, you will find the nerdy, the unwholesome, and even the downright unpalatable elements. Wine can be, at its best, among the closest things to heaven that you will find on earth. It can also be, at its worst…, well, not like heaven. What am I talking about? Let me show you.
Beneath all the hedonistic trappings of the average bottle of wine, there lies a whole lot of science, and no matter what anyone tells you, science isn’t sexy. Sure, you always hear about the romantic ideal of the vineyard owner who nurtures his grapes, gently ushering them toward maturity, where they will eventually speak through the wine that is produced. Ignoring the whole question of whether most wines really allow the grapes to speak or not, there is still a lot that goes into the winemaking process that just isn’t as sexy or romantic as the image that we often have. You will hear a lot of talk about “SO2” or possibly “micro-oxygenation”. You might hear terms like “maceration” or “reductive”. Although there are people who get off on this kind of stuff, it’s definitely not going to start the average wine consumer’s engine, if you know what I mean. By the way, a Google image search of the phrase “nerdy women” doesn’t yield the results that you might expect…, or maybe it does.
The wine biz isn’t all family vineyards and meticulous winemakers. No, there are also huge corporations pulling the strings of some of the biggest wine brands in the world. Sure, there are people who are in this business for the love of wine, but there are also people in the business for the love of money, which I understand is the root of some pretty bad stuff. Recently there have been some cases that have vividly illustrated the greed and deceit of some in the wine business, perhaps most famously in the Red Bicyclette case http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/42200. The makers of the wine were convicted of illegally selling wines labeled as Pinot Noir that had been cut with cheaper Merlot or Syrah juice. There was also a case involving an Australian producer who was selling Chardonnay laced with Thompson seedless grape juice. See, Wall Street isn’t the only place that you will find people who have sold their souls for money.
Yes, there are many resplendent wines out there, wines whose voluptuous texture and flavor make a young Sophia Loren seem like the girl next door, but the world of wine also gives us Retsina. The fact that the most commonly observed description of Retsina’s flavor is “interesting” says a lot about the wine. It’s a wine that only a grape’s mother could love. I mean, this wine is so ugly that…, nevermind. There are also wines made from armyworms. What are armyworms? Damned if I know, but I know I don’t want to drink something made from their crushed and fermented bodies. Actually, that’s not true. I was very disappointed that I didn’t get to taste the armyworm wine that was being sneakily poured into people’s glasses at the recent Wine Bloggers’ Conference that I attended, but that’s really more of a personal problem than anything.
Now let’s talk about faults. I had a great talk with my friend Joe Roberts recently about how much most people have to learn about recognizing wine faults. While this is true, there are some wines that scream, “There is something wrong with me!!!” Now don’t get me wrong, I love the smell of sulfur in the morning (doesn’t everyone drink wine with breakfast?) as much as the next guy, and how could you not succumb to the sweet aroma of wet cardboard in your glass, but we all have our limits. If you drink wine long enough, you will find a wine that you don’t even find drinkable.
Despite all of the unsexy things that you can find about wine, there is still very little in this world that rivals it for hedonistic pleasure. There is a reason that wine is so often equated with sex. There are reasons why you so often hear words like “sultry”, “voluptuous”, and “bootylicious” used to describe wine. A glass filled with a fine wine is like a bed shared with a beautiful woman (or man, depending on your gender and what you’re into). I just chose not to write about that here, although I kind of did in the end anyway. Oh well.
So now that I’ve successfully written the unsexiest post ever to appear on Drink Nectar, I’m off to pour myself another tantalizing glass of Retsina and go read up on my micro-oxygenation. Cheers!
Ben Simons is a project manager by day and a wine blogger by night. His Vinotology blog chronicles his love of wine and of writing. He hopes to soon find himself working in the wine industry, and is not above begging to get there. You can also find him on Twitter and on Facebook.
08 Jul 2010
This post is from guest blogger Dustin Cann (@DustinCann on twitter)
For me, summer brings to mind thoughts of time spent in the yard or around a pool with friends, grilling to hearts’ content and talking about all things impactful or ridiculous over the appropriate summer beverages. You’re well familiar the normal libations: Pinot Grigio, Sangria, Mojitos, Margaritas, and (alas) light beer. Nothing against any of these options, but I’m a little bored with them. Fortunately, I recently had a good friend give me a particularly great piece of advice: rediscover and fall in love with the storied Moscow Mule.
There are plenty of reasons to enjoy one of these dandies- the crispness of ice cold vodka in a freezing copper mug, the sweetness of simple syrup and ginger beer, the brightness and tart magic of a generously limed rim. It’s a great drink, but the thing that turned me onto it so immediately was the story behind my friend’s love of the drink.
She told me how on hot days, she has very clear memories of growing up when her dad would mow the lawn. He’d bring out a couple of Mules in their cold copper mugs and the lawn would manage to take care of itself much easier. She remembers how great she felt when he finally let her have a tiny sip, like he thought she was grown up enough to be eligible for a little bit. The way the mug felt in her hands and the way he grinned as she licked her lips afterward.
Then she told me a few times a year she drops by her mom’s house on a hot day, and borrows one or two of his copper mugs for the day. She brings them home and puts them in the freezer for a while before mixing up a Mule and heading out to the yard. One sip and she’s 7 or 8 years old, all over again.
It wouldn’t be the same in a different mug, and it wouldn’t even matter except for the crystal clear memories of daddy and daughter that each sip evokes for her. Any drink that can do that for her is worth giving a shot. And even without the romance of great memories, it’s a damned good drink.
About The Author
Dustin Cann is a traveling business consultant (39 trips in the 52 weeks of 2009) who loves his work, but would rather be a rock star. He’s a foodie and an appreciator of both haute cuisine and pub food. When he’s home, he plays around in recording studios and relaxes on the lake with a blind pug called Honey. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee with his partner of eight years and almost surely needs to drink fewer Manhattans.
This post is from guest blogger Tamara Belgard of @sipwithme
All my blood was rushing to the organs in the lower regions of my body. I sat there looking across the table at my husband, slowly wrapping my lips around the cool metal fork, enveloping the last bite of warm toffee bread pudding, feeling it sweet and satisfying as I took it in my mouth and let it slip down my throat. We sat still, relishing in the afterglow, savoring the final moments of true decadence and complete indulgence when it occurred to me and I said, “You know honey, I think wine and food may just be better than sex.” He laughs.
While exploring this topic, I noticed the gorgeous couple in the booth behind us who’d been keeping pace with us all night had also just finished their dessert and were now sitting so closely next to each other, they could have been spooning. They, who were previously all giggles, batting eyelashes and showoffs, were quiet for the first time of the evening with wicked grins freshly smeared on their contented faces. It was like they just had virtual sex, or wine and food sex… and I watched. Hell, I more than watched, I participated! It was like a wine and food orgy!
I thought about it further (because as a blogger, I tend to obsess about new ideas for my blog): This couple’s wine arrived as she was throwing back her hair, flirtatiously laughing at every silly thing he says, using very obvious and suggestive body language. While they were sipping from their glasses, he acted dominant, making recommends from the menu, saying things like “Trust me, you’ll love it” (I wasn’t exactly evesdropping, the guy just happened to be a very loud talker). Their foreplay continued with the arrival of their appetizer—fries with duck fat (yummers, btw)—as the perfectly crisped French-fried potatoes hit their lips, tongue and mouth with the intensity of a French kiss… “Amazing,” he kept saying again and again. By the time their main course was being consumed, their conversation had degraded to mere moans and groans, more than hinting at their experience of infinite pleasure.
They were not alone… we simultaneously and langourously lingered over those last morsels of our decadent desserts, feeling our minds and bodies relax, giving way to the pleasure just received. As if on cue, I watched her rise from her seat and slide into the booth next to him, gently laying her head on his shoulder, snuggling… spooning, until their bill was paid and they quietly slipped out (for round 2?).
Before all the blood had fled my head to my belly, inducing a serious food coma, I was able to jot down my top 10 reasons why the food and wine experience is better than sex.
- Condoms aren’t required to eat or drink and there’s never a risk of pregnancy.
- It’s legal to pay for food and wine.
- Dropping $100 on a meal is perfectly acceptable.
- You can take pleasure from both food and wine in public and even in front of your family.
- You don’t have to be committed to just one; feel free to eat and drink around.
- Food and wine won’t leave you dripping with sweat or give you bed head.
- You can make dinner and a bottle last for hours, even all night.
- There’s no obligation or expectations after you’ve enjoyed wine or food.
- You don’t need mirrors, angles or toys to make the experience better.
- Sorry men, I love you all, but it just has to be said; women have a better chance of being truly and deeply satisfied by a good meal and a few glasses of fine wine.
We’d just finished a stimulating date-night dinner at Allium Bistrot, Hunter and I were having great fun traveling down this obnoxiously creative road until I got to number 10 and he matter-of-factly said, “Wait a minute, I’m not so sure I support this article after all.” So, in all fairness to him I’ve also come up with one great reason why sex will always be better than food and wine. Any sex is good sex and you couldn’t ever say that about a bottle or a meal.
So, in the end, my advice to you is simple, select some good wine, have some indulgent bites and then slow down and discover how the food and wine experience can seduce your palate, leaving you utterly exhilarated, entirely blissful and ever wanting more. Until we sip again…
Tamara Belgard is a freelance writer and graphic designer living her dream in Portland, Oregon. She currently writes a wine blog called Sip with Me detailing her journey through wine, Oregon and beyond. In addition to being a full-time mom, Tamara is also a marketing and social media specialist. Her passions include wine, chocolate, travel and all things culinary.
27 May 2010
Today’s post is from guest writer Jennifer Thomson of Thomson Vineyards:
The other day a winemaker said that I had the impressive ability to attract “characters”. This was as we were driving through the underbelly of the city, along side the ship yards, searching for a warehouse supposedly full of new French oak wine barrels being sold for As Seen On TV prices by a salesman named Mike *(name has been changed to protect the source of these ridiculously low priced barrels…err I mean for the sake of confidentiality). I responded to the winemaker, “Yes it seems I do…I also seem to be quite a magnet for unavailable men.” He laughed.
Author Malcom Gladwell, notes three agents of change in his book The Tipping Point, one of those agents being types of people. I know it’s not Gary V’s latest Crush It or Quick Bites by Rick Bakas; but The Tipping Point contains some pretty insightful information that when applied to the wine industry, connects the dots seamlessly with little to no effort and underlines the fact that if you don’t have a Maven, Connector, or Salesman hidden out in the newly reorganized 2010 org chart of your business or winery you better get one – fast!
I’m all three. Not because I’ve honed my skills or been trained to be this way, it’s just who I am. As a freshly minted industry insider I can point out just where the tipping point is between “for the sake of the business – for the sake of the wine” and just plain greed. And I’m sad to say it but, “The Wine World’s Juicy Little Secrets” is evidence of at least one of the seven deadly sins.
Recently I’ve come into contact with various levels of juicy little secrets. Some are appalling; some are as old as the seven deadly sins. More telling is that what is outlined below all occurred within the past week, a telling sign that “The Wine World’s Juicy Little Secrets” happens more often than not. Here’s a brief snapshot of the life of a Maven/Connector/Salesman.
- One of two Big Gun Brokerages says at a custom crush seminar that bulk wine on the market past its prime i.e. 2007 and older is being sold to vinegar and ethanol producers for 35 to 50 cents a gallon. If the ethanol producers get it first, it’s the next stop is biofuel. If a négociant swings in just in the nick of time and buys out the whole lot, he’s likely to pay $3-$7/gal, package it and put it in the hands of consumers. It may also change hands again, sit in storage for too long and go back to vinegar. In the real wine world, the pendulum swings ever so slightly between premium wine, wine, bulk wine, vinegar and then…ethanol! It also swings back and forth far more often than wine marketeers care to let on.
- New French oak barrels no longer sale-able because a cooper claimed an insurance loss due to external barrel water damage. Barrels showing no signs of external damage are on the same pallet as the ones with insignificant water marks. The cooper was either forced to claim the loss because they were in the same vicinity, on the same pallet or otherwise. Mike says, “I can’t tell you who, but the biggest wineries in California buy these barrels.” I negotiate one for free. We decide to buy 10 more. Point of reference, the barrels were trucked 60+ miles south only for us to pick them up and truck them back the 60+ miles to the exact same town they came from. I’ll get to the biofuel issue, green certifications and the wine industry’s addiction to the word “sustainable” later.
- Location of the barrels is very important. They are sitting immediately across the warehouse from stacks of wine from a winery currently reviewed on Cork’d, selling for almost $40 a bottle. The winery simply needs the cash flow and doesn’t want to damage the brand’s established $40 price point, so they sell bulk to Mike and he sells it through his channels for lesser price, has the option to repackage it and other wines like it, or enter snapshot 4.
- Mike calls me this morning and says he has some very good French wine and he needs a poly hard shell container, wire enclosure, to hold wine. He goes on to explain to me that he will pay someone to open the wine, pour it into the container, scrap out the bottles at 5 cents a piece and sell the wine to make none other than, vinegar or ethanol!
I could go on, but I’ll stop there. That’s quite enough of a snapshot into my life, unavailable winemakers and all, that I care to disclose.
But I leave you with this. Wine is a business. Furthermore winegrapes and wine is a commodity. Put aside the romantic notion of scantily clad women, the Tuscan sun beating down on the winemakers furrowed brow, ripe berries dusted with 24 karat gold and pull out your high school economics textbook. Look at the laws of supply/demand. Then flip to the index and read up on the definition of elastic and inelastic. Finally, look at the model where a commodity slowly increases in demand and production grows to meet it – the rate is climbing. It must, at some point (they all do) plateau. At that juncture wineries must either source new undiscovered markets or define some other competitive advantage in the marketplace. The wineries referred to in “The Wine World’s Juicy Little Secrets” are defining another source of competitive advantage because as I referenced in my last guest blog entry, it’s standing room only in the marketplace and new undiscovered markets are dwindling! That being said, it’s dishonest and can be related to more than just one of the seven deadly sins if consumers care to really open their eyes to “The Wine World’s Juicy Little Secrets“.
And the tipping point? Wineries simply trying to carve out their own well planned, financed and balanced niche in the market that cut costs by buying As Seen On TV priced barrels, keep drinking wine from those wineries consumers. They are the ones just trying to stay in business for the sake of the wine and that’s the truth.
About the Author
Jennifer R Thomson is the fourth generation of Thomson Vineyards and kicked and screamed her way into the wine industry fighting off the family business as long as she could. Her family has farmed the same 80+ acres of pears, apples, prunes, and cattle in Los Carneros, Napa California since 1938. The family was responsible for the development of the first irrigation system in Napa Carneros in the 1950s made possible by a series of federal soil conservation land grants. Growers of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Merlot since its first wine grape planting in the late 1960s, Thomson Vineyards has supplied both the David and Goliath wineries with premium fruit in the Napa, Bay Area and Central Coast regions of California.
25 May 2010
Today’s post is from guest writer Coryn Briggs of Black Star Farms
“I don’t like Riesling because it is too sweet,” how many times have I heard this…the answer, one too many. The reality is that some of the best Rieslings are made in a variety of styles ranging from bone dry to off dry to semi dry to sweet to late harvest. This is what is so fabulous about this varietal! Indeed Riesling is a “noble” grape with tremendous ability to produce amazing wines suited for any palate and meal for that matter.
The grape’s resistance to a cool climate plus its natural tendency to express terroir makes it one of Northern Michigan winemaker’s favorite varietals. Riesling enthusiast and winemaker at Chateau Grand Traverse, Sean O’Keefe adds that “this is a grape that many of us have been working with for years with the purpose of creating a true regional style. Not only “can” we grow Riesling in Northern Michigan, but we can do so at the highest international level.” O’Keefe and several others are looking forward to showcasing their wines alongside the classic Rieslings of Germany, Austria and Alsace at the upcoming Riesling Rendezvous.
The line up for the 2010 Riesling Rendezvous includes a full team from Northern Michigan. Participating wineries include, Bowers Harbor Vineyards, Black Star Farms, Chateau Grand Traverse, Left Foot Charley, Peninsula Cellars, and 2 Lads. The wineries are also a co-sponsor of the event along with wine marketing boards of Germany, Alsace & Austria.
Northern Michigan winemakers will be equipped with award winning Rieslings and a new logo representing the hand as the “State of the Riesling” and they will rendezvous with a purpose to highlight their success with this noble grape. As a co-sponsor of the event the wineries will also be providing wine for one of the lunch programs, serving the region’s wine to more than 250 participants.
The event will be held on July 11, 12 and 13 and is hosted by North America’s premier Riesling producer, Chateau Ste. Michelle of Washington state and Ernst Loosen of Germany’s renowned Dr. Loosen estate.
Information about Northern Michigan wineries participating is below:
Bowers Harbor Vineyards is a family run winery surrounded by epic views of Lake Michigan’s historic Bowers Harbor. Our cool climate region produces dynamically expressive varietal wines.
Black Star Farms is a unique agricultural entity that features three tasting rooms, two winery production facilities, a distillery, B&B Inn, and equestrian facility. The winery is proud to represent the viticultural diversity of the Northwest Michigan region.
Chateau Grand Traverse has moved into its second generation of family winemaking – and has grown to be one of the largest Riesling producers in the Eastern United States. Riesling is the winery’s passion, and it has been a tireless promoter of the variety as the Old Mission Peninsula’s signature grape.
Left Foot Charley is a winery located in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. The winery works with 14 local growers exclusively to provide the highest quality fruit for their varietal and blended wines.
Peninsula Cellars is a family run winery located on the Old Mission Peninsula. Their philosophy toward wine making is minimalistic, allowing the regional expression of the fruit to come through.
2 Lads Winery is a 10,500 square foot facility located on 58 acres on the Old Mission Peninsula. They specialize in cool climate red and sparkling wines.
In addition, the wines of Bel Lago and Chateau Chantal will be represented by Linda Jones, of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, as it is acting as co-sponsor for the Michigan portion of the event.
We would love to know if any of you are planning on attending this prestigious event. If so, please be sure to say hi to our group of winemakers from the mitten shaped state.
About the author:
Coryn Briggs moved to Traverse City 6 years ago and quickly immersed herself into the Michigan wine industry. She is currently the Winery Promotions Coordinator for Black Star Farms. In this role she manages the many pieces of the marketing mix including, off-site events, website content, advertising, social media, as well as graphic design. Coryn enjoys local food, wine and the downtown Traverse City area where she lives with her husband and two young daughters.
Black Star Farms is a unique agricultural entity that features two winery production facilities, their adjacent tasting rooms, a distillery, Inn, and equestrian facility. The winery just celebrated its 10 year anniversary and is proud to represent the viticultural diversity of the Northwest Michigan region, and its proximity to the 45th parallel – the same parallel that runs through so many of the great wine regions of the world.