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Wednesday Wraparound


Wash. bloodmobile offers beer to blood donors

A Washington state blood center is offering donors a deal: Give a pint of blood, get a pint of beer.” Fine for a ragamuffin state like Washington, which has little to offer, besides seafood in Seattle. (What, you like Yakima?) But this is California! We can do better. How about for each ounce of blood, a glass of Chardonnay, some Dungeness crab, and a hunk of sourdough with butter.

Sorry, Dan. I disagree!

I’ll defer to no one in my admiration for Dan Berger, but he’s off the mark when he writes, in yesterday’s Santa Rosa Press Democrat, of “The sad decline of cabernets.” He calls Cab “more than a parody of itself,” a “mediocrity…I cannot figure out why so many people are still buying them.”

I understand, of course, what Dan is talking about. There are a great many bad Cabernets. Without going into too much detail, they’re boring, over-oaked, simple nuisances, and they often cost too much. I, too, don’t know why anyone would buy them. But you could say that about anything in California, including Pinot Noir. Besides, Cabernet is the biggest-production red wine in California, so you’d expect there to be an ocean of plonk. Is it any different in Bordeaux? Je ne le croit pas. On the other hand we have Cabernets to die for. Just in the last 3 months, here are a few that have thrilled me: 2006 Cardinale, 2005 Reserve and Estate from Trefethen, a  pair of 2006s from two wineries previously unknown to me, Redmon and Napa Angel, a pair of ‘06 Hestans (regular and Stephanie), and various bottlings from Rodney Strong, Baldacci and Freemark Abbey. No flies on Frank, as we used to say.

Joel Aiken is looking for work

Did you know he left Beaulieu last June, after 27 years? It was very quiet. There was a minor contretemps with Diageo. “I’d wanted to make my own wine for a long time,” Joel told me. “Diageo said ‘Maybe,’ but it never happened.” He also grew weary of “all the meetings in a company of that size.” When you’re stuck in a meeting you’re not making wine and that’s what he wants to do.

Joel’s new wine project, which is yet to be named, will consist of a pair of 2009s: a Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir from Silver Pines Vineyard (source of excellent Pinots for Tandem), and a Howell Mountain Cabernet. Joel also wants to increase his consulting. “I can help people in a couple ways at high-end winemaking.” If I was making wine and needed help I’d certainly turn to this former protege of Andre Tchelistcheff. You can reach him at 707-337-0584.


Maybe it’s just me, but when a passenger drinks five airplane-sized bottles of wine, then goes into the plane’s lavatory where he takes off his shoes, socks and shirt, and then refuses to come out when flight attendants so request, and then accuses the flight crew of being disrespectful, I’d throw him behind bars without a get out of jail card. His name was Muhammad Abu Tahir, but even if it had been Steve Heimoff, he was behaving like an asshole. Don’t people understand that you can’t do stuff like that anymore? Book him, Dano.

The Pattern Is Changing-Here Come the Storms

That’s the header from AccuWeather describing how the El Nino may finally be kicking in. “It now looks like next week we could be seeing a series of major storms…heavy to very heavy rain and snow over all of California.” (It’s just begun raining here in Oakland as I type these words.) The forecast has all the winemakers buzzing. Once the ground is saturated, how much more precip can it absorb? We want and need the water to end the drought, but nobody wants flooding or mudslides. Stay tuned.

I don’t get it

It’s rare for me to admit puzzlement, but I confess I don’t know why Sarah Palin has agreed to address The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America’s convention next April. I’m assuming that everything SP does is to get her elected President in 2012. How could this help? Campaign donations, obviously, from a powerful lobby. Sarah and her hubby, Todd, don’t seem like fine wine drinkers to me. More like beer types — not that there’s anything wrong with beer! But why did WSWA invite La Palin? Tom Wark, do you know the answer?

* * * Please help the people of Haiti * * *

  1. Ah, yes, Dan Berger. The world’s most opinionated wine writer. Isn’t it funny how often he says things we think are totally off the wall, yet, like you, I just find the guy enjoyable.

    And his work on behalf of Riesling, my favorite white grape, has been quite admirable.

    But this stuff of demeaning California Cabernet as a group seems awfully silly.

    To be sure, there are plenty of Cabs to criticize. Its just that wines like Spottswoode, Corison, those you mentioned, and scores more are not overdone, over the top, parodies. It’s sad to witness that kind of nonsensical, easily disproved argument.

  2. Hey dude, just where do you think you’ll be getting that Dungeness crab? Clue: from the ragamuffin state of Washington.

  3. Well, Seattle has some cute neighborhoods. Rains too much though.

  4. Steve says, “I don’t get it.It’s rare for me to admit puzzlement, but I confess I don’t know why Sarah Palin has agreed to address The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America’s convention next April.”

    She’s obviously been coaxed or compensated into believing the WSWA’s (stated) mission is to ‘protect private enterprise’ while their big money efforts to block direct interstate shipments of wine are the reality. I don’t think Mrs. Palin is favorable to restraint of trade. Someone should tell her, she’s been duped.

  5. The gentleman on the airplane should have mid escorted out mid-flight. I am not a fan of anyone taking off their shows while on an airplane. Save it for your living room.

    As far as El Nino – I too am growing tired of the gray and looming rain. We need the water but I need some sunshine as well.

  6. Most wine consumers want easy choices if they are not “well-versed” in wine as food. There are just as many good, bad and ugly Pinots, Chards and Zins out here because they sell easily as the “right bottle” for the occasion. Even rosés are getting better and selling better after many, many years of abuse.
    If you subscribe to the notion that wine is food, then there’s room for Hamburger Helper, Beef Wellington and ratatouille. You can bet there’s a wine to go with each of them even if you wouldn’t be caught dead with some of them.

  7. Fred Tasker who (in his day job) writes the medical column for the Miami Herald and is right in the middle of the Haitian crisis… tells me that the American Red Cross is still the best way to help.

  8. I was talking to my wife about the Palin selection last night. We finally agreed that hearing her talk drives everyone to drink due to frustration and befuddlement. I.E. a big boost for the WSWA!

    On a more serious note. it is has been my perception that the WSWA is a very conservative group and a the small government hands off position Palin takes seems to be a fit for the groups political ambitions.

  9. maybe it’s time for someone to write a book called, “Day of the Oak-ust” RE all those CA cabs not hitting the mark?! could end with a riot at another 0-8-15 cab wine release?

    yes, help haiti. terrible, terrible.

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