Having spent the last several days in the Southland (with another 4 to come next week), there were a number of things I liked:

  • The Ford Crown Vic from Thrifty Rent-a-car. On the road for hours at a time a very comfortable ride. Much better in the front seat than in the back…
  • The 100% Malbec from Buoncristiani Winery. All the blueberry compote one could want, and a plushness in the mid-palate that suited the variety beautifully.
  • The Aperol/Campari-Reposado-sweet vermouth concoction that Barry Richter of Testarossa Winery and I came up with while sitting at a bar. Weird, but delicious, take on both the Negroni and the Margarita…a Margaroni?
  • The camaraderie from other members of the In Vino Unitas group. We’re all small brands trying to sell wine direct in CA…a tough job when the overwhelming force of the large distributors and brands are brought to bear.
  • The Charcuterie platter – and especially the chick liver pate – at The Winery Restaurant in Tustin. Coupled with a traditional Negroni…the sweet, bitter, ginny, creamy, liver-y goodness was mind blowing.
  • The Patland Winery 2007 Cabernet, Stagecoach Vineyards. Showed gorgeous breadth of texture and flavor from mid-palate to finish. Better than their 2009 from the same site.
  • The response to our wines from the generous wine buyers in Orange and LA counties. We all believe ourselves (in our own heads) to be first string; it’s nice to find out other people think we can start too!

A Matter of Taste?

January 30, 2013

File this one under “Too Much Time Stuck in LA Traffic and Does Budweiser Know the Implication of Their Ad?:”

Like Budweiser, who produces 47% of all beer sold in the US, mega-wine companies are in a pitched battle everyday for the wallet of the consumer (the heart, mind, and tastebud rarely factor into this pursuit). And because the amount of shelf space in the big chains is limited, mega wine companies (the top 6 wine companies account for more than 80% of wine sold in the US) often buy small wineries to “add” more space to the shelves (Mirassou Vineyards increased the number of Gallo facings in 2002). What is important is the Nielsen scan data not the integrity of the brand or the way the wine actually tastes. We all do have to actually sell wine, ultimately.

Part of me is in awe of the crassness of the whole exercise as embodied by Budweiser’s campaign. The tagline: “Taste Makes an Entrance….” So, up to this point, we can infbudweiser-black-crowner that all of the other Bud beers had no taste (the other possibility, if we are thinking qualitatively, is that they tasted of sh*t).  It is rare that a company comes right out and says, “hey, this stuff tastes like crap, but look at the shiny new bottle.” Awesome.

And speaking of taste…in this case good and educated being the operative words, Joe Roberts, the blogger extraordinaire behind 1winedude.com, shares some thoughts about a few La Rochelle wines here and Steven Kent wines here.

I’ve had a very busy start to 2013. In the first 29 days, I’ve made trips to Arkansas, Las Vegas, and Southern California in my on-going mission to tell the world about the good works the folks at Steven Kent Portfolio and the Livermore Valley are doing.

So, lots of travel means lots of hotel rooms, lots of meetings with great people, and lots of wonderful wine and food. Last night I poured wine under the auspices of a group called IVU (In Vino Unitas) – a collection of wineries (like us) who self-distribute in California. We were pouring at The Winery Restaurant in Tustin and the audience of restaurant and wine shop buyers seemed really interested in the wines.

I had the good fortune to share a drink and a Charcuterie platter with Master Sommelier, Steve Poe. I think we inadvertently discovered a new (and potentially classic!) cocktail/food pairing: a Negroni (all bittery, slightly sweet goodness) and the exquisitely gorgeous, house-made chicken liver pate that graced the platter with its creamy, earthy deliciousness. Together, new heights of flavor! Spectacular!

Just a tip…and I can’t believe how long it has taken me to cotton on ear plugsto this little miracle…when in a hotel surrounded by the running feet and joyous eructations of a group of high-schoolers on a field trip, the greatest gift you can give yourself…silicon ear plugs. Heaven.