When you taste thousands of wines each year, there are many painful moments, and you have to keep a sense of humor. There are days when we taste dozens of wines, but none are outstanding. And there are days when so many of the wines are so strange that it makes us wonder how anyone could possibly make a wine like that and how those wineries survive.
The heat wave finally broke in most of California on Wednesday, so I’ll give the global warming issue a rest for now. But be assured, this is a story that won’t be going away anytime soon. As some readers have pointed out, climatic changes could (and may well) have a major impact on the kinds of wines we drink in the future.
Our brand loyalty has little to do with our desire to support a favored vintner. Usually we’re driven away from our pet wines due to one of two factors (sometimes both), which have been bantered about in this space the past few days and weeks.
Maybe it’s a coincidence. Maybe not. In the past few months, I’ve heard several winery owners talk about rebalancing their businesses. They emphasize, above all, rededicating their efforts on wine quality.
Ok, so a heat wave or two does not necessarily constitute global warning (or whatever you want to call it). Still, after eight days (or nine, or 10, or whatever) of scorching heat in California and much of the country, with no let-up in sight, it was easy to buy into the argument that indeed planet Earth is getting hotter.
With its new $500-a-bottle cost, Screaming Eagle Cabernet becomes the undisputed price leader in California. The move to raise the price for Screaming Eagle from $300 to $500 has, of course, infuriated many long-time mailing list customers.
Hardly a week passes without us learning about a new celebrity wine connection or convert. I don’t suppose it much matters what one’s calling in life has to do with a fondness for wine. It is fascinating to see how wine works its way into both the mainstream and niches of our society.
Ran into Chris Steltzner at the gym on Monday morning, and she described one weapon for the searing heat of the past few days in California, no matter, it seemed, where you were. The owner of Steltzner Vineyards in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley told me about sitting out at her pool on Sunday evening, with a tumbler of ice filled with maybe a half bottle of Steltzner Sauvignon Blanc.
Continuing the discussion on the role of wine critics, I'd like to point out that there’s a reason why no supernova numbers-only wine guru has taken hold of the ratings game. And it’s simple. It’s because people really do read the reviews and those descriptions matter to them.
I’m taking a few days off, but I leave you with a couple of thoughts – questions, actually. One is the claim by some that winemakers deliberately make wines to suit certain critics’ palates, and in turn to win accolades, or more specifically, points.
Following up on last week's blog post , I participated in a panel of wine critics this past Saturday, at the Institute of Masters of Wine event in Napa, and the three of us used similar terms to describe our perception of wine quality.
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