Oenophilia – An obsessive disorder or just a way of life?

Swirl, Sniff, and Spit with your friend, Patrick

Archive for Geek Points

Someone Just doesn’t get IT

So what did it take to bring me out of my self-imposed blogging retirement?  A great concept was recently publicly misrepresented and maligned in a reply to a celebratory blog posting.  Twitter Taste Live has grown to be one of the most popular regular wine events ever.  Affectionately referred to by its hashtag #TTL, Twitter Taste Live, and it’s upcoming April 14th Hospice du Rhone tasting, was promoted and praised by by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat‘s Heather Irwin.  Ms. Irwin is a member of the main-stream media who is also keeps a great blog called Bite Club (Be sure to check out her postings!)

Back to my indignation!  Some luddite who “doesn’t get it” chose to really try to ridicule #TTL and it’s followers in quite a nasty tone.  Rather than use Ms. Irwin’s blog as a forum for mudslinging, I have chosen to come back to the world of “Macro-Blogging” and let my legions of devoted followers know what has gotten my Irish up – even if only my name and liver are Irish!

Here’s the recap:


This is social networking gone too far.  I am all for Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Digg, LinkedIn, etc., but these kind of events are simply asinine. How terribly inconvenient and old-school it must be to communicate with people using your voice and words and expressions. How awkward it must be to actually interact with people you are in a room with without using a BlackBerry or iPhone. The need to publish your thoughts (of the moment) to a group who are either right next to you, or are not next to you and have no frame of reference is just silly. And if you’ve ever read the “transcripts” of these kind of events you know what it is to want to own a gun and draw a target on your temple. The arrogance of public wine-tasting combined with the arrogance of Twitter (you know, that idea that people actually care what you’re doing at all times and where you’re doing it?) makes for a foul-tasting blend of narcissism and desperation. A delight for budget bloggers and self-promoters, but also a tragic and transparent attempt at “connecting” with the next generation of wine drinkers through technology instead of taste-buds.”Online Tasting.” Wow. It says it all right there and yet people still pay money to participate in such garbage “events.” Let’s keep going and try “Online Molecular Gastronomy,” “Online Farmer’s Markets,” and “Online Culinary Arts Certificates.” I might have to wait for the NYTimes to come down on this joke of a social experience for it to wind down, but really? It’s already done.


Twitter Taste Live has been going on for a year now and has continued to grow in popularity! The wines that will be tasted are published in advance at http://www.twittertastelive.com – along with some convenient suggestions as to where they might be purchased on-line. People meet at the agreed time and contribute using all sorts of social media. Usually there are gatherings to share the bottles and expense with other tasters, but when I can’t get a babysitter, my wife and I taste in our living room. We have a great time discussing the wines we are tasting with our friends who are on-line and tasting as well.

Last month, about two dozen tasters gathered at Healdsburg’s very cool Palette Art Cafe to taste several Pinot Noir together and then share their notes, thoughts, and opinions with the hundreds of others who were trying the same wines simultaneously at the Jug Shop in S.F. as well as in other places around the country. We also had tasters Tweeting in from the U.K. and China! Not only did we get to taste some interesting wines, we also enjoyed some great food at one of the grooviest establishments in Sonoma County.

The days of the snooty grand somellier tasting out of a silver “Tastevin” are at an end. The wine critic no longer has the last say. We have entered the era where anyone can sip some wine and tell anyone else what they think about it. The goal of #TTL is to engage more and more people in conversations about something they enjoy. Voyeurs are welcome – but it is really all about tasting together. Tasting wine and sharing has been around for a very long time. Now our reach is even broader with Twitter, 12seconds, viddler, UStream, Facebook, Skype, Ning communities, our own websites and so many others.

Heaps of Sonoma County wine lovers will pour into Estate on April 17. Hundreds others will get together in restaurants, bars, and dining rooms all around the world. Why not join in the fun? http://www.twittertastelive.com or #TTL if you are on Twitter!

There it is folks.  I chose to not even address this fellow’s diatribe, but rather just tell people what Twitter Taste Live is about for me.  Go on to Bite Club and read Ms. Irwin’s really wonderful posting about Twitter Taste Live.  Then see what has gone on in the comments and be sure to be productive when you chose to take on the apostates!  See you on the 17th!!!

Wine in Context, Dinner in Context

I adore wine. I taste wine and share my opinions on particular wines with anyone who reads this blog. Nonetheless, to me the most important quality in a wine is how it tastes with and affects accompanying food. We don’t always eat elaborately well-planned meals that we have perfectly paired with a wine that was suggested by a Master Sommelier. Sometimes we just eat dinner. Inspired by the recent writings of Jill at Domaine 547, here’s a look at last night’s “It’s 6:30. What should have for dinner?”

I opened up the refrigerator door and found not much. I opened up the pantry and found not much. I opened the door to consider a trip to the grocery store and found much: a constant downpour that made me close the door and pray to the muse of culinary inspiration. Looks like a pasta night.

We are blessed here in this little town of Healdsburg in that I have many shopping alternatives in the SLO food movement – Sustainable, Local, and Organic. I try to stay away from chains and supermarkets and do as much of my shopping in locally-owned small businesses as possible. This keeps my little green conscience slightly assuaged from all the other ways in which my size 13 carbon footprint stomps on dear old Gaia. However, sometimes I do get pulled in by the glamour of Whole Foods and the bargain quirkiness of Trader Joe’s. So I reached for Trader Giotto’s (Joe’s, for those not up on the lingo) Italian Tomato Starter Sauce – basically Pasta alla Checca in a box. Pretty yummy on its own, but I felt a need to justify my existence in the kitchen so I added a pinch of Persian Allspice from Boulettes Larder in the S.F. Ferry Building Foodie Orgy Fest. This powdered blend of rosepetals, cinnamon, cardamon, and cumin have made me look oh, so much of a better cook than I am on many an occasion. The result was poured over some pasta (imported from Italy, so it could have have a carbon footprint of as much as 2000 lbs of CO2) and served up with some rock-hard Reggiano from the back of the cheese drawer. In the end, pretty yummy.

As a winemaker who often reviews wines, I have made a point of not reviewing any wines I have had a hand in making. However, since I am just telling you about my dinner, I will make an exception. We popped open a bottle of my wife’s Chateau Felice 2002 Zinfandel Reserve from her family’s Chalk Hill estate; we both worked at CF from its inception until October of 2006. This wine is a zin made in the elegant “claret” style – not big, jammy, sweet, or high in alcohol. It is, though, quite a mouthful that is packed with a broad range of fruit and spice and finishes with great acid.

Then we had it with the aforementioned Persian-spiced Tomato Checca. Disaster! The wine tasted hot, sharp, and way too acidic. Bummer. My wife sadly attributed it to the wine seeming to have passed its prime early. I defended her -“Good Husband! Good Boy!” – and immediately decided it was not the wine, but the pairing. Ta Da! This is a job for SUPER GEEK! I pulled one of my old tricks from my super utility belt and dashed a little balsamic vinegar and a little sea salt on the tomato sauce. Lo and behold…the zinfandel was tasting pretty darn good and we dined happily ever after. Well, at least until I had to endure the screams as I brushed my five year-old’s long curly hair before bed.

So what happened? My buddy’s gypsy-godmother’s trick of using the sweetness of balsamic with a little extra salt at the table adjusted how I perceived the acids in both wine and sauce and made them compatible. I’ve tried this trick with ratatouille, asparagus, and several other stereotypical pairing faux-pas and it has worked every time. The best result of this dining adventure? I did, in fact get to enjoy a yummy wine that otherwise would have gotten poured into the carboy we keep to make our own aromatic red wine vinegar.