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james laube's wine flights

The Bare Essentials

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Sep 28, 2006 4:38am ET

I made it to Florence in pretty good shape.

Not so for my luggage.

It decided to stay at Heathrow, in London, while I carried on with my laptop and tote bag.

My luggage took the path less traveled, which left me clothes-less in Florence, which wasn’t so bad for the first 24 hours.

After checking into my hotel that first night I dined in a great little restaurant a few blocks from the center of town.

We drank a few bottles of wine, and I’d tell you exactly which bottles they were--since I took good notes--but the next day my notepad was either stolen or accidentally taken.

So those notes are not close at hand.

I now have the notebook back. (A waiter at another restaurant the next night noticed someone else with it. While dining, I had met an old friend from the States, got up to greet him and say hello, and left my pad at a table. It could have easily been my fault--jet lag, short-term memory loss, absent-mindedness, relaxing ... take your pick.)

In the interim, though, someone had picked up the book, perhaps thinking it had been abandoned. He or she then ripped out the pages where I’d scribbled my notes.

When I got it back, all that was missing were my thoughts.

So in the finest of journalistic traditions, I’ll have to make up a few of my own quotes.

Among the treats the first night were a couple of Isole e Olena’s reds, the Cepparello and a Syrah.

We had lots of delicious dishes that would have been great even if I hadn’t been starved to death by a succession of dreary airline meals. I’m not a picky eater, but let’s face it. If you travel much, the food and wine situations in the sky are getting worse and not better.

The next day, Saturday, before heading to my destination farther south in Tuscany, I made one more pass at the airport, hoping my bag and prized wardrobe had found its way to Florence.

No luck there, but one of my friends, Nino, happens to be close to my size, and it turns out he’s an over packer!

He's offered me the pick of his clothes and I’ve left directions to my residence should my bags decide to join me for the rest of my sojourn.
John Wilen
Texas —  September 28, 2006 3:14pm ET
JL, sorry to hear of your travel SNAFU...Since you've left, the WS website has posted your final rating of the 2003 Napa cabernet vintage. It shows a rating of 85, the same as the 2000 vintage. Our group's experience is that 85 is a bit too low and that it sends the wrong message. (I think you know from previous blog postings how many high end Napa cabs our group of 11 tries from a vintage: about 200!) The puzzling thing is that your own data suggests the 85 rating is too low, too.

We accept there are many ways to rate a vintage. To us, one valuable measure is the number of wines that score 90 or above as a percentage of the total sampled. Using your WS database, so far the 2003 vintage shows 33 out of 116, or 28%. That is exactly the same percentage as the great 2001 vintage where ultimately 139 wines, out of 492, scored 90 or above! The 2000 vintage numbers, on the other hand, were 81 out of 392, or just 21%, a significant difference. So unless the wines still to be added to the 03 database are radically worse than the sample already logged in, we think you have done the vintage a disservice.

Of course, you have your own way of rating a vintage. It might be that you simply consider the performance of a dozen or more benchmark wines each vintage. Or perhaps you use a different mathematical formula than 90 points or better. Or maybe there is no math involved at all. Regardless, our group's experience is that the vintage, while certainly quite a step down from the last two great ones, is still worth selectively muscling our way through, unlike 2000.

Mark Mccullough
GA —  September 28, 2006 7:13pm ET
John, FYI, just received the Oct 31 issue of the magazine. None of these ratings are on the web database yet. JL has 67 Calif Cabs rated in this issue and only 10 out of 67 are rated 90 or above. 30 are 86 or below, including some very famous and high priced labels. Add in higher prices for lower QPR value on equivalent scores and, using your numbers, it looks pretty close to 2000 to me.
John Wilen
Texas —  September 28, 2006 10:08pm ET
As I noted: "So unless the wines still to be added to the 03 database are radically worse than the sample already logged in"....

It sounds like that is indeed the case....
Harvey Steiman
San Francisco, CA —  September 29, 2006 12:40am ET
Jim and I traveled together to Grand Cayman for a senior editors retreat a few years ago. We made it, but our bags went to Paris (!). Fortunately we were at a beach resort and could stock up on swim trunks, T shirts and flip flops to wear for a few days until they got the bags back to us.I tried to get the airline to credit us with the frequent flyer miles our bags earned, but no dice.
Alex Cobb
Fort Worth, TX —  September 29, 2006 10:59am ET
It definitely seems the airline restrictions have caused a significant increase in baggage issues. I just got married the beginning of August, and we took our honeymoon in Fiji. Of course, the bags didn't make it on the flight from LAX to Nadi, Fiji, and with flights only every other day, it wasn't until 2 days later that they would show up and fortunately make there way to our resort. As Harvey mentioned, it is nice to be at a beach as all that was really needed was a bathing suit...
MaryAnn Worobiec
Napa, CA —  September 29, 2006 11:42am ET
John, regarding the '03 vintage assessment, keep an eye out for the Nov. 15 issue, with our very comprehensive Cabernet report! That has the bulk of the '03 Cabernet scores, many of which you and our other readers have not yet seen.

--MaryAnn Worobiec Bovio, Tasting Coordinator, Wine Spectator's Napa office

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