Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring! (early, but we'll take it)

I always try to remember to post a photo of one of my grapes emerging from winter's slumber. This is Jupiter, a superb seedless, oval, purple grape bred by the University of Arkansas. It grows well in the PacNW. It is emerging about 3 weeks early this year, but I think we won't have a late freeze (and it was a very mild winter), so the grape leaves/flowers should be OK.

It does mean we may have an early harvest, though.

More great Spanish Garnachas by Bodega Borsao!

Garnacha is called Grenache in France, and in France it's a common part of the "GSM blend" -  Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre in a Rhone blend wine. In Spain, Garnacha finds a special and perfect combination, where high altitude vineyards enjoy bright sun and cool nights, and the vineyards there are often old vines (a hundred years or more), and as a result the wines are remarkable.

Bodega Borsao is located northwest of Zaragoza (Spain's fifth-largest city), in northern Spain. They make several wonderful Garnachas. I have sold a lot of their Tres Picos Garnacha (in the $12-14 range), but lately I discovered their midpriced Monte Oton Garnacha (which I'm selling for just $8; it is "grown on the windswept slopes of the extinct Moncayo volcano"), and they have a lower-end Garnacha which is sold out here in Oregon presently. All these wines show great purple fruits and are round and smooth, with just enough structure to support a wonderful meal (which should include a red meat, if you eat that way).

We get to visit Bodega Borsao in just a few weeks; can't wait!

Monday, February 2, 2015


Friends, as you know, this is an important question. I've been a wine retailer for eight years now, and approximately 400 of you over that time have bought far more SE Washington wines from me, and other wines (many from Spain and Italy, which easily win the QPR (quality-to-price ratio) contest), than our Oregon Pinots. I think for most of you, it's either about the taste, the flavor profile, of the grape, and/or you have been frustrated with what you perceive as these traits of Oregon Pinots:

1. They can be inconsistent from bottle to bottle;
2. They mutate, over time, more than any other grape, whipsawing the poor wine lover into fear and indecision;
3. The French like to say (as they have told me, in Burgundy), that Oregon Pinots are good while young but "do they age?"; and
4. They are pretty darn expensive.

Despite all that, you have to admit, as I freely do, that, at their best, they are some of the best wines in the world. And Oregon Pinot is "Portland's Wine," and deserves our attention for that reason also.

I have had an aged Echezeaux (grown next to DRC), sold from under the table to me at a great restaurant in Dijon, and held for a few years, and, when finally opened, it was very good but not as good as the best Oregon Pinots I've had, from the likes of J.K. Carierre, Anderson Family Vineyards, Beaux Freres, Adelsheim, and Domaines Drouhin and Serene (and others; not trying to make an exclusive list here).

Fast forward to J. K. Carriere. Jim Prosser built his winery a few years ago, uphill from Harry's Chehalem landmark; before that, Jim was in the barn at a B&B with a hazelnut orchard near Newberg (with a really cool representation of a viking longboat in the attic). I first learned about Jim when Cliff Anderson, my first (and best) mentor in Willamette Valley grapegrowing and winemaking, sold fruit to him, so I went to taste Jim's wines,. and like Cliff, Jim was a real artist. He had some older bottles open for special customers. I wheedled a taste of his 1999 Pinot, and I'm sure glad I did--it was unbelievably great--truly outstanding in about 2004, and it cemented in me an opinion that Jim knew how to make ageworthy Pinots (because that '99 seemed built to last).

Fast forward to 2015. We're selling our city house (having moved to a farm near Woodland WA), and I'm selling some wines at auction (Quilceda Creek; Cayuse), because our new home's cellar (and house) are smaller and we have too much wine. I have been holding a 2002 J.K. Carriere Pinot Noir with a note on the neck saying simply, "Purchased Sept 2004: Keep til 2010; drink by 2020."

If you're paying attention, and if you understand the discussions about Oregon Pinots, you will be wondering, "Can a good Oregon Pinot really last 13 years?" If you really understand Oregon Pinots, you'll know that 2002 was a special year: very good conditions for the fruit, and likely to age well. So, this bottle presented a fair test.

Life with Oregon Pinot Noirs is all about data points, like taking snapshots of a running cheetah. You can talk about data points, but you cannot make too many sweeping conclusions, because the data is too varied. Unlike Christophe Baron's marvelous, inexplicably-high pH Syrahs from The Rocks vineyard, which establish their nature early on, and then hold it, only refining tweaking their already-made reputation, the best Oregon Pinots have this mystique in which we don't really know how they will evolve, or whether they will be so subtle that we miss the point, and we don't often know what we'll get when we pull the bottle out. Sometimes, the wine go dumb and just shut down for a while. Enjoying Oregon Pinots takes WORK and a willingness to take risks. It's also an expensive habit, especially when not every bottle is what you hoped for. A good Oregon Pinot is a will-o-the-wisp. You pull the cork and you ask, "what have we here?" and even if you drank its sister yesterday, today its sister may be different. Warmer summers are not necessarily a friend of Pinot Noir, either, though Gamay and Syrah may be creeping northwards. Pinot in Bellingham, anyone? So, even how Pinot grows here is changing.

So, the '02 J.K. Carriere. It was a fascinating bottle to open tonight (with a gorgeous Steelhead, roasted simply with just lemon, salt, and pepper). The first thing I noticed, AT THIRTEEN YEARS OF AGE, was the vibrancy of youthfulness--deep purple color and pleasant purple fruits in the nose.  Game over. A wine past its prime cannot, will not, look young. Without any delay or decant, this wine was energetic and ready to go--first sip was delightful. It didn't change much in the glass, but stayed faithful for an hour or so: Wonderfully balanced, smooth, just subdued enough to support the food without clamoring for attention, and yet so elegant that through some sense of feigned shyness it drew attention to its excellence. Wow! This bottle, a snapshot in time, was pretty high up on the Pinot Noir quality scale. Vibrant purple fruits! Smoothness! A good finish! It referred not to other wines; it made its own statement. In its way, in its time tonight, it was perfect.

And chalk up one data point for Oregon's excellence in ageworthiness. Say that Oregon Pinots are too spendy (correct). Say that Pinot Noir can be unpredictable or inconsistent (correct). Say that too many wine lovers don't understand or appreciate good Pinot (correct).  Say that California Pinots are quite different (correct). But tonight, this Pinot was perfect. I just wish I had more of them. If more of them would be like this ;)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Chateau Pichon Lalande

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is my favorite Bordeaux label. A Super-Second Growth (a Second Growth that is widely considered as First-Growth quality), it presents excellent quality for a price, while still high, that is much lower than the price of the First Growths. Thus, it's "Bordeaux QPR" is very good.

For me, Pichon Lalande's characteristic uniqueness includes notes of blackcurrants and violets. Even from an average year, at about 25 years old, a Pichon Lalande recently blew me away as the best old Bordeaux tasted, at one of my Bordeaux tastings. I have sped up my search to find more, ever since that wonderful day.

Excited to visit the winery during our upcoming trip back to Bordeaux. We also get to see the Mouton wine museum, and taste from barrel there. Talk about bucket list!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tannins in tea and wine - why cheese works with red wine!:

Interesting report from Univ of Minnesota:

Tannins are found throughout the plant world, and at least one of their properties has been known for some time. The word ‘tannin’ is derived from the process of using plant extracts to cure leather (tanning). This highlights one of the principal chemical aspects of tannins – they are highly reactive with proteins. Tannins play an important role in both grapes and wines. In wine, the perception of astringency on the palate is attributed to tannins.  In your mouth they bind with salivary proteins and cause the proteins to precipitate. The end result is that your mouth will lack the lubrication that saliva provides. Thus, astringency caused by tannins are very much a tactile sensation in your mouth. This is why we often will describe the sensation of tannins as silky or rough.

The British learned long-ago that a splash of milk in their black tea can make it more palatable. This works because instead of reacting with the salivary proteins in the mouth, the tannin extracted from the tea leaves reacts with milk protein (casein), resulting in a beverage that is less astringent. The same thing occurs when one consumes red wine with cheese. The proteins in the cheese react with the tannins in the wine, making the wine seem less harsh. Tannins are what make drinking red wine with a high-protein food like steak such an enjoyable experience.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2011 Alto Cinco Garnacha

Wow! What a great wine, and I am selling it for just $9. Fantastic bouquet including flowers and spices and purple fruits, and great in the mouth. Smoother and more complex than other wines costing four times as much! I am hoping to visit this winery in April this year.

I have sold 33 cases of this wine over the past month. Getting rave reviews from my customers. So glad I found it!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Interstellar" the movie

Warning: This is not about wine (much):

The movie "Gravity" was a horrific fiasco. I love Sandra Bullock, but there were so many scientifically-impossible moments in the movie, coupled with so many implausible moments (in terms of characters, actions, etc.) that one could be forgiven for wondering if some sort of non-human made the movie, say, a recently-raised-to-sentience dog who understood nothing at all about human nature, NASA, motions of bodies in space, or moviemaking. Bullock did a great job in the movie; it wasn't her fault.

So it was with some trepidation that I approached Interstellar, but having read that the movie makes a concerted effort to get the theoretical science right, I went for it. Glad I did. The movie gets an enthusiastic B+, by which I mean fairly high praise.

The strengths of "Interstellar" are:
1. It provokes useful thoughts about science and humanity (as opposed to Gravity, which provoked only thoughts negative about the movie).
2.  There are several truly gripping moments in the film, with great suspense.
3. At times the heavy organ in the soundtrack was a powerful companion to the movie's mood, and also somehow helped the story along as well.
4. The flick takes a deep look at the current boundaries of our understanding of science. In some ways it's a nice adjunct to a real science class. Yet it didn't feel too preachy.
5. If you are a dad with a young daughter (or if you ever were), you will probably get wet eyes. The film has several very realistic human interactions, and of course this is where 99% of SciFi flicks fall short.
6. The movie gets a lot, an awful lot, of the science right, such as its attention to the relativistic effects of fast travel upon the perceptions of time, and such as the difficulty of docking in space.
7. The evilness of the Matt Damon character was well-portrayed and believable. Most crooks are clumsy and make mistakes, and make it up as they go along.
8. Great scenes of planetary movement! Unlike the fantasy of Star Wars, vehicles cannot swerve and turn in space, as they can in an atmosphere. The movie really, really gets this right.
9. Interviews of actual Dust Bowl survivors were a wonderful addition to the movie, as they were relevant to the story and also interesting.
10. Cool robots! Cool walking mechanism. Way better than "Hal" in 2001.
11. Some killer sets and graphics. Those alone are worth the price of admission.

Interstellar is long but for me it was the right length.

There are, unfortunately, many negatives about the movie:
a. We're told that the Blight killed wheat and okra, but not corn. OK, but what about rice, barley, oats, apples, etc.? And, to feed the world, we could also take much more food from the sea: more farmed fish, more consumption of seaweed, etc. No mention was made in the movie of turning to the sea for more food, when the sea covers three-fourths of our planet!
b. It was cloyingly Republican and Right-wing Christian to take the attitude that humans screwed up the Earth, so our duty now was to find a new planet. What about fixing the current planet, especially when so many Earthlings were about to die?
c. No way could fields of corn survive those dust storms, and yet the corn looked GREAT!
d. No way would Earth disband its military, in a time of starvation and mass human extinction.
e. How convenient, that a wormhole was placed by Saturn! How wonderful, that current propulsion technology could get astronauts there in only two months!
f. Nothing can escape the event horizon of a black hole, except the astronaut did. Also, you can't see inside a black hole, except the astronaut could.
g. If the small shuttle was low on fuel, how could the large shuttle make an emergency rescue drop from outer space?
h. If a planet is covered by only 12" of water, how could it form waves a thousand feet high? Especially if it has high gravity?
i. If you spent the entire movie trying to fulfill a promise to return to your daughter, why would you spend only two minutes with her, as she lay on her deathbed? Lame lame lame.
j. Michael Caine's "Big Lie" was not in keeping with his otherwise noble character.
k. Is it really so easy to steal a spaceship, to travel to the wormhole and join the professor's daughter on the third planet? When she might be in love with the first astronaut who landed there? Talk about flying a long way just to be rejected! And the movie didn't show us at all that Cooper and the daughter Brand were in love.
l. A bookcase as the doorway between dimensions? Really? What, is this the Chronicles of Narnia?
m. So, if we humans had progressed into inter-dimensional understanding, why did they allow all the killing and travail and misery to ensue, instead of just telling Cooper's daughter what she needed to know?
m. For what possible reason would the government deny its own Moon landings? One of its crowning achievements? Really?
n. What did the revelation to Murphy (Cooper's daughter) accomplish? She apparently didn't launch the huge concrete space station. And yet Earth survived long enough for a large-ish station near Saturn. With everyone starving, how did we accomplish that? And why did we need fifty-dimension help to accomplish a station near Saturn?

Anyway, yes--you should go see it. It will make you think. A little at least. What else are movies for?

Oh--the wine part: The movie never said if the Blight killed grapes! Why couldn't we just cover the planet with grapevines? Why, indeed? Talk about Heaven on Earth? LOL

Friday, November 21, 2014

Southern Joaquin Valley in CA awash in hard-to-sell winegrapes

This is upsetting: Winegrapes from a huge portion of the southern San Joaquin Valley were sold this year for as low as $200 per ton. That is only $0.10 per pound. A lousy price for a grower.

To be sure, these aren't your upscale vineyards--these are factory-farmed grapes on vineyards thousands of acres big. Those grapes go into cheap wines. But the growers are switching to nut crops, which produce more revenue.

So the cheap-wine market may find a shortfall in grape supply. An ongoing pendulum shifting in grape/wine economics.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

2014 Grape Update

2014 in the Pac NW is a great year for grapes. Any poor wine from 2014 represents an inept winemaker.Here's my report from my winemaking:

Cayuga: Really good numbers: pH 3.38 and TA 0.68%. A really nicely low TA, due to our hot summer and long ripening period. Fermenting in carboys now; great fruit from Lon's 112 lbs and from our Le Mans vines 28 lbs. Just a great year with large clusters that got ripe with superb flavors. Will be my first dry Cayuga, given that low acid.

My Mixed Red ("Rosso Misto") from our Le Mans vines: 7 lb Cascade, 17 lb Regent; 10 lb Delicatessen. Great fruit; great flavors. I put in some Rayon d'Or (white) for color fixing but with those reds it isn't necessary. just racked onto oak and sulfited tonight. Smells good. Vivid dark rich, glass-staining purple. Drinking decently now; surprising for a raw wine. pH 3.54 and TA 0.77% (it was 1.16%!!! but MLF really took that acid down; I can drop it a further 0.05% with cold stabilization, so I'll end up with 0.72% TA, which is a bit high for a red so I might add the faintest hint of sugar to balance it up and if I do my job well the tasters wouldn't even notice.

Leon: Picked late due to my travel schedule, so the pH was higher than the target of 3.4 or less. But I wanted it to hang in our most excellent summer, to see how the flavors changed. It turned a bit bricky as pH shot up to 4.12 during primary ferm. But that was only for a few days, and I added tartaric acid to drop pH to 3.69, which returned the good purple color. When pH was 4.12, TA was 0.85%--too high--but MLF really did its job: Tonight I racked and oaked, and it tested at pH 3.73 (pretty good; wish it was a smidge lower) and TA 0.58%, which was low enough that I could add the least bit of tartaric, to squeeze down the pH and help keep the wine fresh and more-stable in terms of shelf life; I boosted TA to 0.62% and I can use CS to take it right back to 0.57% (while maintaining the new, lower pH). Color is a fairly deep purple for a Leon; I'm pleased. The wine is disjointed; hasn't come together yet, but has nice fruit. I don't pick up any off flavors that I could attribute to fermenting on the skins, but I will try a batch with limited skin contact (quick skin color transfer) next year, as an experiment, given advice received from other Leon-makers elsewhere in the US. I think adding the white grapes really does help maintain the color (the old Syrah-Viognier trick).

Need to bottle the 2013s soon. Running out of glassware!


Friday, September 19, 2014

Thoughts on California's Central Coast

Just back from a week on California's Central Coast. We flew to Oakland, then drove to:

1. Santa Cruz: Not so great. Downtown is superb, and Laili Restaurant is a treasure. But the beach is average at best and full of homeless folks, and there hasn't been much done to make it usable or pretty. Some kind of failed casino is now a huge arcade with homeless camped in front. Not our favorite tourist site. And where is the fabled hippie vibe? Heck--come to Portland for that. Not S.Cruz.

2. Moss Landing--Found a GREAT little diner for breakfast. Truly superb Hispanic chefs in there. Told them they're the greatest.

3. Monterrey: As fun as I remember. Stand-up paddleboarding. Sea lions. The woman in the tourist center was the most helpful and informative person on earth. Friendly, Classy. Upscale. Pretty. Interesting. Cannery Row is still good. Sand Bar restaurant is wonderful.

4. Pacific Grove: Where I would live if I wanted to live on CA's coast. Which I don't. Lovely downtown and beaches.

5. Paso Robles. Great downtown; well done folks! But it's HOT there in September. And, sad to say, the wines are not good. Not even Turley or Tablas Creek are very good. I think it's too hot there to make great wine. Wineries are coasting on their laurels. It's too bad. I speculate that many Californians think their state's wine is good, when in fact most of it isn't. Check out Walla Walla, folks. There is quality there, AND it's cheaper.

6. San Luis Obispo: Lovely town! Lovely downtown! Lovely fig laurel trees. Great restaurants (check out Red Luna). I love this town. Cal Poly makes it a cleaner, brighter place.

7. Santa Barbara: OK, but full of homeless and some bug that bit us and caused painful swelling and itching. Terribly hot there and not one house or business in the city seems to have A/C. Won't be back. Kayaking was fun, but the hurricane that hit Cabo caused freaky and quite scary waves in SB.

8. Bakersfield: (OK, this was on our way back using I-5, and it's a sentimental fave for me since I worked there a few times, decades ago): Still flat, still hot, and we tried Noriega's Basque Restaurant for dinner, but it was neither Basque nor good. They served the following well-known Basque dishes: Chicken Cacciatorre; Steak; Spaghetti; Lettuce Salad with Vinegrette.

Overall, Monterrey remains the place to go, and Big Sur really rocks! Just don't go for the wine.

BTW, the drought is for real. We saw dry-farmed vineyards really suffering--many plants dying--and ditto for many almond orchards.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Beware the overpriced, overhyped California wines

Some of them just don't deliver much quality for the price. Exhibit A:

I attended an expensive dinner recently, where the food was triumphant but most of the (high-end) California wines poured were decidedly subpar. A 2012 Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay was absolutely fantastic, but a 2013 Belle Glos "Clark and Telephone" Pinot Noir was just OK (and I like the fruitier "more American" California Pinot style), and a 2012 Emmolo Napa Valley Merlot was actually quite bad-it offered up nothing but a little TCA. A pour from a second bottle was hardly better. Finally, a very spendy 2012 Caymus 40th Anniversary Cabernet (we're talking way over $100, I think) had little to show for itself--bland, with no bouquet and no distinctive features on the palate. There are at least fifty cabs out of Washington State that would blow it away.

Possibly the bad wines were just my poor fortune, and possibly the other bottles were great. But for those prices do you really want to risk a bad bottle?

I have a Quilceda Creek Red Wine ($40 about about 92 score) that was equally bad. But we know many expensive wines are wonderful (almost anything by Christophe Baron at Cayuse, for example).

I say again that too much of California is overhyped and overpriced; it makes me wonder how many Californians really understand good wine, or do they convince themselves, in a pique of insularity, that their swill is the best and other states' wines are inferior? That would be sad.

Have said all this, of course there are many, many wonderful California wines, and I intend to continue finding them. But there is SO much evidence that fantastic wines can be found for under $30 that do you really want to spend $150 on a bottle? Really?

Overpaying for wine is the easiest thing. Even a dunce could do it. What is much more impressive is locating well-made wines that don't break the bank.

If you think good wines must be expensive, Italy, Spain, off-the-beaten-track CA and WA would beg to show you different.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Researching the less-expensive 100 point (Parker's rating) wines on the market in the US:

Here are (IMO) the best choices for the wines rated 100 points by Robert Parker. (I omitted many on his list because they are either much more expensive, or I couldn't find them available on the retail market.)

Old World:
1. 1990 Montrose $500 (at this age, this is a good choice)

2. 2009 Montrose $319 (only 1 bottle left)

3. 2009 Clos Fourtet: $295 (needs 5 years of cellaring, then it keeps for 50 years; this is a good choice)

4. 2009 La Mondotte: $395 (2015-2045)

5. 2009 Leoville Poyferre: $250 (2018-2040--very tempting and a Second Growth)

6. 2009 L'evangile $395:

and the older Bordeaux that I can still find are much spendier:

7. 2000 Lafleur: $1699
8. 2009 Le Pin: $3600
9. 2005 L'Eglise-Clinet: $769
10. 2000 Cheval Blanc: $600

New World:

1. 2005 Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Cab: $250 K&L (now-2033)

2. 2007 Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Cab: $275 (2017-2037)

If I went New World, I would get one of the Quil Creek cabs. 

And here are the Napa cabs (ignoring the utterly ridiculous prices):

3. 2005 Colgin Cariad Proprietary Red: $375 (hold until 2015)
4. 2007 Colgin Cariad Prop Red: $500
5. 2002 Dalla Valle Maya: $585
6. 2007 Harlan: $940
7. 2007 Kapcsandy State Lane Cab: $400 (2012-2042)
8. 2008 Kapcsandy State Lane Cab: $400

Finally, there is also a Cayuse '08 Impusivo Tempranillo. Haven't been able to find it yet in the market, though.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our almond habit is sucking California dry:

Fascinating Mother Jones story.

Seriously? Farmers are spending a million dollars to drill each well to 2500', in order to get enough water to grow almonds? This is drawing down the aquifers faster than they can replenish themselves. The San Joaquin Valley is dropping 11 inches per year.

A similar story is in West Texas, where the industrial-sized cotton farms are so thirsty that the aquifer there is going dry.

That is not sustainable. That is treating the Earth like it is a throwaway resource. Until our space travel capability gets much more advanced, this is nuts, pardon the pun.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Improving the Quality-Price Ratio (QPR)

QPR, in its simplest form, is a great concept but if you consider it even slightly, it quickly falls apart. It is clear that it's an inferior measure of wine value.

Consider an 85-point wine selling for $11 (whose QPR is 85/11 = 7.7) and an 91 point wine selling for $17 (QPR = 5.3). Does anybody really think that the $11 bottle is a 45% better value simply because it has a 45% higher QPR? Nope; in fact, the $17 bottle is likely the better value.

Clearly, something is wrong with QPR.

So I've been reading about different ideas regarding improving the QPR calculation. I borrowed one part of a solution offered by Robert Dwyer in this blog post: He notes that wine value increases exponentially as they rise through the 90-100 point range, and that makes a lot of sense to me, as the scores lie along a bell curve of distribution, so a 99 pointer is much, much rarer (and more valuable) than a 93 pointer (assuming that there is agreement on those two scores for two different wines).

I don't care for the proposed formula that Mr. Dwyer offers, but I borrowed one element from his article: I used the following factors as "weighting factors" to multiply by a wine's score:

90 points: 1.0 x (no effect on quality)

93 points: 2x
96 points: 4x
99 points: 8x

To take a couple of real-life examples: 2010 Chat Leoville Las Cases has average professional score of 98.3, so its QPR is: 98.3 x 7.3 weighting factor / $340 = 2.11.

A 2013 Lafite has average score of 93.5, so its QPR is 93.5 x 2.4 weighting factor / $480 = 0.47.

96-98 point 2013 Mouton at $360 (higher score and lower price) was hardly better, with a score of just 0.65. 

But 2013 Montrose (from a poor year, but it gets a great average score of 94 and the price is right at $90) gets the highest Bordeaux score in my 20-wine sample: 2.61. 

If you are choosing between the first two wines for investment purposes, the Leoville Las Cases (a Super Second Growth) looks like the far better choice. The Lafite might appreciate more, on a percentage basis, over time, but it has a higher starting price to overcome, so I expect its ROR to be less than the LLC, over time. We shall see.

I'm not sure if this revised method is close to accurate, but I think it's a huge improvement over regular QPR. I just used it to make a wine purchase.

What does this tell us? I think it suggests that First Growths on the market today are overpriced for the wine quality they bring. That's not shocking, but the corollary is a bit shocking: If you invest in the Super Second Growths (Pichon Lalande, Montrose, Leoville Las Cases, and a few others), you might do better over time than with the Firsts. Particularly in an off year where the prices are down but your target wine gets great scores. 

I think that, twenty years from now, people won't look at my 2013s and think, "oh, no! those are from a poor year." I think they will see the wine's age and its high scores, and buy those bottles. As I say, time will tell. Collecting Bordeaux is a Great Experiment. 

In a great year, the First Growths have CRAZY prices, and, via my revised QPR calculation, pretty lousy QPR, So I think my days of buying First Growths may be over. 

Life is all about finding, and exploiting, value. Let others overpay for wine; it is the easiest thing; any idiot can do it. Finding the best wines at the lowest cost--now there is a trick.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Scary news: Duckhorn is planting a vineyard in our precious Red Mountain (WA) AVA

In my humble opinion about this news, I hope Duckhorn doesn't screw this up. Every time I've had Duckhorn's CA wines, I've disliked them, and they are certainly not worth anywhere near their exorbitant prices. I view Duckhorn as a winery which screws over ignorant consumers with low quality and high prices, covered with an unfortunately-opaque marketing gloss. The wine world would be better off without them. So it was with not a little trepidation that I read that Duckhorn is horning in on one of America's best winegrape sites: Red Mountain AVA (near Benton City WA). It would be great if such fantastic land could be saved for winemakers and winery owners who know how to make good wine and are willing to sell it for a fair price.

Holding my breath . . .

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hail Bordeaux!

On the heels of torrential hail damage in recent years, another mega-hailstorm has destroyed thousands of grape acres in Bordeaux.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bordeaux Futures - a bad deal?

This article asserts that a consumer who had bought Bordeaux futures in 2009, and sold them five years later, would have lost money. A lot of money.

While some are claiming that wine is a wasting asset and is always a bad investment, as always there are many complicating factors.

It's true that successfully investing in wine is very difficult. Here is a quick list of just some of the things that can go wrong if you try to make money by buying, holding, then someday selling fine wines:

1. You picked the wrong wines: either the market isn't interested in them later, or the wines didn't age well.
2. You chose the wrong vintage.
3. You stored the wines incorrectly.
4. The wines were stolen.
5. Your willpower is weak, and you drank the wines.
6. You couldn't find the right buyer or the right forum for resale.
7. You got divorced and your spouse took the wines.
8, Your friends or kids drank the wines.
9. You finally made money when you sold your wines, but you could have made more money if you had invested in something else.
10. The wines you bought were counterfeit.
11. The buyer you chose was a crook.
12. The wines were damaged when they were sent to you.
13. While in storage, some bottles were broken, or their labels were stained by other bottles that leaked.
14. You didn't hold the wines long enough.

However, if you choose the right wines (and First-Growth Bordeaux from a great year is always a good choice), and if you have superb storage and willpower, and can wait long enough, I still think that collectible wine is a worthwhile investment. Those bottles can improve for decades, and they become rarer over time as their brethren are consumed; this can provide a happy confluence of factors leading to higher prices for your wines.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Highest corkage fee in the world

Well, SOMEONE has to have the highest corkage fee in the world. It may as well be the French Laundry in Napa CA.

For only $150 they will extract the cork from your bottle of wine. Hell, I don't even let the restaurant pour the wine--it's just the tax we pay to be allowed the privilege of bringing our own wine to the restaurant.

Most restaurants pour only "baby" wines--they rob the cradle by buying and pouring wines that aren't even ready to drink yet. By the wine could have matured, it was already opened and poured for somebody. This is perhaps the greatest disappointment of the American Restaurant Experience. A few restaurants, such as Bern's Steakhouse in Tampa FL, have extensive wine cellars (OK, at Bern's it can't be underground, so it's a series of refrigerated warehouses), but those are more and more the exception.

It remains the best and cheapest way to have great wines for your dinner, to buy your own wine, age it for years in your own cellar, and take your bottle to the restaurant and pay a corkage fee. Why waste your money paying double or triple the wine's value, for a wine so young that you'll regret drinking it? Take your own bottle instead!

And never never never let the restaurant pour your bottle at your table. Tell them, right at the uncorking, that you will be handling the pouring. This is because the server doesn't know who wants how much wine, and indiscriminate pouring by the server will waste your wine into glasses where it won't be drunk.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hooray for Olympic Provisions!

We had a stellar meal again there. With a fantastic wine. 2006 Cayuse En Chamberlain Syrah. The wine's bouquet faded after ten minutes, but at the outset it was amazing: forest floor, flowers, mushrooms, some pepper and lots of meat fat. What a nose! The wine was big and purply on the palate. Delicious. Had it with the French Board (wow) and a nettle pesto pasta. Amazing!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Check this out: A map showing areas of the world that will lose, and gain, the ability to grow quality winegrapes

This map shows scientists' best guess of the effects of climate change upon the world's winegrape regions.

Note that Tri Cities, Red Mountain, and Walla Walla will see loss of vineyard acreage due to the increasing heat. Ditto for the areas south of the Great Lakes. The Willamette Valley gains the ability to grow more kinds of winegrapes. Bordeaux and Napa are huge losers, as are much of Italy and Spain. This is why growers in Champagne are planting in southern England. Yes, southern England. It's a game-changer, folks.

The article is here.