Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Turmoil in the world of wine critics?

Upheaval in the wine world!
Wine critics running amok!
Okay, I'm exaggerating a little. But not really by that much.
Robert Parker recently sold a majority of The Wine Advocate to a Chinese conglomerate. This occurred shortly after Robert started reducing his work load by handing off the prestigious California wine beat to long time Italian critic, Antonio Galloni.
So what does Antonio go and do? He leaves The Wine Advocate to start up his own website to critique wine under his own name.
It's not just The Wine Advocate either. Last year, James Suckling left The Wine Spectator to start his own site.
So The Wine Advocate is a mess. The Wine Spectator seems to be re-inventing itself with lower ratings across the board for EVERYTHING! And new critics seem to keep coming out of the woodworks every day.
In addition to the "big boys" Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate, you can get ratings from Stephen Tanzer (probably our favorite), Wine Enthusiast, Burghound, Decanter, Rhone Report, Wine & Spirits, and, new guys: James Suckling and Antonio Galloni. That's off the top of my head. I know I  missed several critics that are out there.
The retailer has a love/hate relationship with the critics. We can't knock any of them, because, let's face it, we rely on ratings to sell wine. The Wine Market may be a little different from some retailers in that WE NORMALLY NEED TO AGREE WITH A RATING BEFORE WE BACK IT. I say "normally", because it's not always possible for us to try every highly rated wine. Sometimes, demand is so high, and allocations so restricted, that we have to trust the critic's rating.
But what's the consumer to do? Here's a few things that I think make sense:
First, if you're so inclined, read as many reviews as possible. It's interesting to see how the critics align, and where they differ.
Second, find "wine people" you can trust. These resources can come from retailers, restaurant sommeliers, or from individual wineries. If these "wine people" really love wine, they will be happy to talk wine with you, and make suggestions on some of their favorites.
Finally, taste wine. Taste as much as you can. Here in St. Louis, there are always wine tastings - most of them at no charge. Restaurants also offer wine pairing dinners, and winemakers are constantly traveling the country to "work the markets".
Once you develop your palate and have a circle of "wine people" you can trust, the critics scores become just what they should be: one tool among many, to evaluate a wine.


Robert Parker evaluating a wine.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Winery Focus: Brewer Clifton!

I was very pleased to read that The Los Angeles Times selected a Brewer Clifton Chardonnay as their "wine of the week".
Brewer Clifton has long been one of our favorite producers here at The Market. We will typically carry 3 or 4 Chardonnays, and a similar number of Pinot Noirs in our stock throughout the year.
Winemakers are ex-French professor Greg Brewer and ex-surfer and rock singer Steve Clifton. As diverse as those backgrounds are, they are very focused when it comes to their wine.
They produce only Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area). They make several different vineyard specific wines, but never stray from the main model.
Here is what the winemakers have to say:  "We believe that the geographic, geologic and climatic uniqueness of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation provide an ideal place to grow chardonnay and pinot noir of intensity, complexity and specificity. Within the appellation, each vineyard carries its own imprint".
I find the Brewer Clifton style to be somewhere between the domestic and French styles of winemaking. The Chardonnays are excellent food wines, having good acidity and minerality, and the Pinot Noirs, like red Burgundies, are better with a few years of bottle age.
If you've never had a Brewer Clifton wine, stop by The Market sometime and give one a try. Or, even better, be sure to attend one of our Brewer Clifton tastings. We have at least two per year.
The LA Times link is below if you are interested in reading more.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How is wine complex?

"A whole made up of complicated or interrelated parts". That's how Webster defines "complex".
This applies to every woman I've ever known .... but wine?
I've used "complex" to describe many wines in these blogs.  
But, what do I really mean when I use the word complex in relation to wine?
Nothing like putting yourself on the spot.
I'm going to step away and think about this a while.
Okay. I'm back.
Layers.  When I say a wine is complex, I'm referring to the layers of expression on both the nose and the palate. The various layers of scent and taste evolve as the wine sits in the glass and breathes,  revealing new and ever-changing sensations over whatever amount of time you are tasting the wine.
I think that's pretty cool. It's also what makes good quality, 'complex" wine really special.
Here's a great example of an excellent "complex" wine that I've enjoyed recently:
2010 Ojai Fe Ciega Pinot Noir, 93 Points Stephen Tanzer - $46 at The Market
Vivid ruby-red.  Raspberry compote and Asian spices on the alluringly perfumed nose, with notes of Asian spices and sandalwood adding complexity.  Sweet, sappy and expansive, offering sappy red and dark berry flavors and a silky texture.  Gains tension with air but maintains its fruity appeal.  Finishes with sweet notes of candied red berries and rose pastille. (Stephen Tanzer description)


Saturday, February 16, 2013

How to deal with bad wines from friends and family

So, here's a question.
What do you do when you are invited to a friend's or a family member's home for dinner and they serve bad wine?
Bad can mean many things. If the wine is corked, being in the business, I personally would take the opportunity to to educate everyone about the flaw in the wine. Cork taint can occur in any wine that uses a cork to seal the bottle. It is not a reflection on the quality of the producer. It's just something that  happens with wine. Nobody is at fault.
But what if it's just inferior wine? There's still lots of it out there.
I have one friend, also in the business, who upon his first taste would exclaim, loud enough for everyone to hear:
That, of course, presumes this is at the beginning of the meal. After several drinks, the diatribe gets much worse - unprintable actually.
I just keep my mouth shut in these cases.
This is a no win situation.
If somebody is serving you a meal in their home, you don't insult any part of it.
Would you say: "these mashed potatoes are lumpy and need more butter?" I think not.
Same goes for when someone brings inferior wine to your home when you are hosting the dinner.
Zip it.
Call me a wuss, but, sometimes there are more important things than the wine.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fat Tuesday Feast - And Wine!

What a meal we had last night!
My son Michael and his wife Dani invited us over for dinner and pinochle - something we try and do at least once a month.
We started with Judy's gumbo - made with sausage, bits of chicken and crawfish tails. I love crawfish!
The main course was a mixed grill of buttered shrimp, blackened tilapia, some kind of sausage and a side of Jambalaya to slather everything in.
Oh yeah, I think there was some rice and green beans, too.
The wines: Sarapo Chardonnay, Evening Land Edna Valley Pinot Noir with the meal - perfect, and a Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy with some bittersweet chocolate for dessert.
As usual, the guys won at pinochle, but the ladies actually made a game of it this night.
And now.
No alcohol for 40 days!  Wish me luck.