Too Much Wine Too Little Time

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Troubling Economic Times

The recent financial meltdown and economic worries are affecting just about everyone worldwide. Maybe some of us have not been hit as hard as others yet we still have concerns. People everywhere are changing their buying habits, looking for bargains, putting off large expenditures and staying away from big tag items. Just about every retail market has been hurt by sales declines and the wine industry is among them. The December issue of Wine Spectator has two articles on this subject titled “Wine Industry Worries About the Economy” by Tim Fish and “What Now for Wine Lovers?” by James Laube. The first tells how wine retailers and restaurant sommeliers around the country are worried about the upcoming holiday season, the busiest wine-consuming time of the year. With the economic problems affecting consumer spending everyone is concerned about what the 2008 holiday season will bring. With reports of sales being generally flat and customers trading down in price there is definitely reason for concern. One buyer reports customers have become more price conscious with double digit increases in the $8.99 to $13.99 price range, while $15 to mid-$20 wine experienced only a moderate increase.

The second article What Now by James Laube lists excellent ideas or strategies for wine buying in these troubled times. A few of his key points are Ignoring price as a quality gauge. I know many times I have purchased a wine based on price assuming it to be a premium wine, only to be disappointed by it. Set limits on your spending, making bargain hunting a priority and holding the line on what you spend per bottle. Being cautious about mailing lists, with most wines sold by clubs or mailing list being expensive, he suggests short of quitting, “consider resigning from those whose wines don’t equate to value.” Also cutting back on your allocation or sharing it with someone. My favorite is If you have a cellar, drink from it. I have been collecting wine in my cellar for several years now. What better time to bring out some older selections, you know a little house cleaning. I will save some cash, drink some good wine, and have some fun trying to remember the reason each bottle was collected. The article lists many other good suggestions on rethinking your wine buying strategies and not over paying for wine.
As a wine lover I am not about to quit buying and drinking wine in a bad economy. I have for the most part, lowered my price range under $15, while searching out bargains and sales. I believe wine prices as a whole have become inflated in the last few years, especially the California wines and hope these trying times will push retailers to scale back the prices and put more value wines on the shelf.
For the complete articles pick up a copy of Wine Spectator Magazines December issue, or if you are a member visit their web site:

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The NFL and Wine

The October issue of Wine Spectator magazine has a short article in the UpFront column reporting a new wine label to be released by Green Bay Packers corner-back Charles Woodson. Normally an article like this would not surprise me, another sports star with money and a love of wine decides to get involved in the wine industry, why not? His label, Twenty Four, a Napa Valley Stags Leap Cabernet will be released this November. The surprising part is an NFL rule passed by Commissioner Roger Goodell that forbids players from endorsing alcoholic beverages. The article states Woodson gave an interview at the release party for his wine and the league offices notified him he is not allowed to promote the wine in any way. Now, I love the NFL and spend most Sundays glued to the TV watching football, yet this policy bothers me. Is this hypocrisy on the part of the NFL? Anyone who watches NFL games on a regular basis knows that a large part of their advertising promotes beer and parties like tailgating which involves drinking alcohol. There are even commercials airing now that have ex coaches promoting beer. Yet a player who loves wine starts a wine label, a legitimate business, and he is banned from supporting it? Very perplexing to say the least. My personal opinion is it sounds like do as I say, not as I do.
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Fifty States of Wine

Just read a great article written by Joel Stein in the September 8th issue of Time Magazine. In the article Mr Stein relates how after finding out that all fifty U.S. states make wine, he set out to try a wine from each state “to see if, as I increasingly suspected, good wine can be made anywhere.” I don’t think I personally agree with that statement but Mr Stein does make some good points. One of which is how many wine regions have trouble gaining respect for their wines as the Europeans, and Californians of late push the fact that their vineyards sit on specific soils which give their wines distinctive flavors that can only come from that region. While I do agree with that belief, I also believe that good winemakers can make great wine in many other areas as well. One question not clearly answered in the article is how many of the fifty states are actually growing their own grapes, he does mention Alaska uses grapes from other states and that finding the right grapes for your region is key. However, there is no actual mention if the grapes selected for each state were grown within the state boundaries. That is a big factor in my mind. If using grapes from California can a winemaker in New Jersey make a great Cabernet? I would contend they can having tasted a few good ones, yet, can that same winemaker grow Cabernet grapes in New Jersey and make a good wine? I think not, but would love to be proved wrong. I hope someone does a take off on this article and researches just how many of the fifty states grow their own grapes, the type of grape, and an evaluation of the wines they made with those grapes.
Regardless the article makes for some good reading so I suggest you pick up a copy, he even personally rates wine from each state. You can also visit for reviews of all fifty wines and a video of a blind tasting.

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Interesting Articles

Wine Spectator magazine for April 2008 offers an excellent write up on “Great California Values”. Best wines to drink now from $8 to $50. The article contains far too much for us to report on here, so I suggest if you are a true California wine lover, get out and purchase a copy of Wine Spectator April 2008. We will provide you with some of the criteria they used just too wet the appetite.
Written by wine writer James Laube, one of my favorites, he states “How to beat high prices and find the best the Golden State has to offer. The article profiles 190 “Outstanding Values” of red, white and sparkling wines. While they have a list of wines in the 90-100 point quality scale with a price ceiling of $50. There are also 51 great values scoring 84-89 points with a price under $25. Attention was paid to recent releases and availability (case production in the thousands).
As we said far too much for us to write about. Want a list of widely available great value wines? It can help you out when you are standing in the store staring at the vast choices of wine to purchase and want to select a great value for your money. Purchase your April 2008 Wine Spectator magazine today and read this article.
I read an interesting article in the September issue of Wine Spectator written by James Laube, who is Wine Spectator’s Napa Valley-based senior editor.
In the article Mr. Laube tells a story of helping a friend “size up her neglected wine cellar”. He states his friend, a long time wine lover living in the Napa/Sonoma area had a “functional cellar comprising of about 1500 bottles” used for storing and every day drinking.
The point of the article, which by the way if you have a cellar is a must read, was that if you purchase and store wine. You will at times forget some wines and allow them to over age. I can relate to exactly what Mr. Staube says. We own a cellar that can hold 900 plus bottles. From the day we purchased our cellar we have been in a rush to fill it. Granted at times around some holidays the rush reversed and bottles moved out faster than in. Yet, over all we move forward in filling it.
I have in the last year or so found some forgotten wonders, I have been surprised at the change when the wine virtually reaches its peak and heads down the other side. If you remember that wine at its peak and taste it on the down side, it is almost sad. Kind of like all of us, who at times feel we have reached our peak and are at an age where ever so gracefully we are on the down side. The taste may still be there but the sharpness and exciting edge is gone. If you’re in your 50’s, don’t you just feel that way some times?
Wine is after all a living thing, ever changing, maturing and yes…
After reading Mr. Staub’s article, I can assure you I am going down and take stock of our cellar. I don’t want that sad feeling drinking any of our wines, so I will get busy sorting out those ready to drink ones. Maybe a little party is in order?
Check out this great article in Wine Spectator’s September 2007 edition.
Visit our Cellaring page for storing information.

From the Wine Spectator magazine archives September 2000; a really neat article that we think all of us wine lovers can relate to. The evolution from a wine taster to having your own cellar. The article was written by Robert Brothers Jr., read and enjoy.

My comprehension of wine prior to my encounter with lots 80 and 81 was defined by the belief that any bottle that required a corkscrew had to be better than one with a twist cap. With this vague understanding, I stumbled onto the path of greater knowledge.
My first moments of enlightenment came when I began dating Doreen, now my wife. During the early days of our relationship we often spent time in our favorite spot, Blacksmith’s Tavern, a historic restaurant just outside of Hartford, Conn., where we would enjoy a bottle of wine and a bowl of popcorn. The building had been renovated from an old tavern, but kept intact small rooms and a quaint, homey feel. On each occasion, wanting to impress my date, I would examine the wine list, searching for a name I could pronounce that also had a price I could afford. It was at these informal wine encounters that I recognized an all-important principle: with whom you drink wine is as important as what wine you drink. As I look back, I cannot recall a single vintage or vineyard from the long list of wines we enjoyed. What I do remember is that every glass was well-behaved and a great value.
Within the next few years, Doreen and I married, and the restaurant went out of business. I attended the closing auction hoping to find some nostalgic piece to remind me of the place where I started my love affair with my wife and with wine. On the block were items such as a wine barrel, wine press (many parts missing), a pair of candlesticks, an antique hall-mirror, bar blender, popcorn machine, chairs and tables. As I reviewed the list of items, it hit me: Lots 80 and 81—metal wall-hanging wine racks.
Soon lot 80 appeared on the block, the first of two 100-bottle racks. Stamped “RIGIDEX-Made in France,” I applied the corkscrew theory and concluded if they came from France they must be very good. I heard a voice say, “Buy them, and the wine will come.”
I bid and bought lot 80 for $300. I had hoped the auctioneer would allow the successful bidder (me) the opportunity to purchase the second rack at the same price as the first. I was wrong. Lot 81, the companion rack, went on the block.
The only other person within three states who also found the unexplainable need to own metal wall-hanging wine racks was unhappy that he had lost the first. As the bidding again neared $300, I felt my heart pound harder, and my brain asked, “What are you doing?” I stopped, but then I realized that I couldn’t just own one; I needed a matching pair. I again bid $300, but my competition offered $325. Without thinking, I went to $350, and the hammer fell. I became the proud owner of two metal wall-hanging wine racks.
With no way to get them home, I phoned my wife and arranged for her to meet me with her father’s pickup truck. When she arrived, she asked how much I paid for them. I reminded her of the wine we had consumed that was once stored in those wine racks at the restaurant and how meaningful they would be in our wine cellar. Her eyes swelled with tears. Then she quicky reminded me that we didn’t have a wine cellar. “If you buy the metal wall-hanging wine racks, you must build a wine cellar,” I said to myself.
For one year, my two wine racks remained empty in my imaginary wine room next to the treadmill in my imaginary gym.
Today, my metal wall-hanging wine racks are displayed on the walls of my wine room, surrounded by less-expensive wooden wine racks. I now realize that buying the racks was a turning point in my love of wine. The purchase prompted me to start reading extensively about wine and to jumpstart my collection, which now numbers 400 bottles, primarily of California Cabernet. With each bottle of wine I store, I know that there is a memory or an experience also stored away, awaiting release at some unknown time. Over the years, I have experienced wine both from my inexpensive wine racks and my much more stylish metal wall-hanging wine racks. Although I can’t say exactly why, the wine stored in those metal wine racks always tastes more valuable.
If you are a wine lover or are just beginning your journey. This article says it all.

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