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

Swirl, Sniff, and Spit with your friend, Patrick

Archive for Technical Stuff

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:

UNBELIEVER:

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.

YOUR HUMBLE SERVANT responds:

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!!!


Advertisements

Rain? Yikes!

Genevieve & I were minding our own business last night, sipping a gorgeous artisan red vermouth on the rocks, watching the brilliance of Hugh Laurie on House, when she asked the question that every winemaker and winegrower dreads hearing during Harvest. “Is that rain?” Yes, indeed-ee, Ma’am. It was pouring down like it hadn’t rained hard for months….Wait. It hadn’t rained hard for months. We have had the traditional Northern California dry summer, right after a very dry winter. It was time for a good rain.

Unfortunately, many growers still have fruit on the vine. Usually by the time the first hard rain hits, most of us have picked our grapes, gotten them through their first fermentation, and had them safely tucked away for their “long winter’s nap.” How does this affect the grapes? How does this affect the wines yet to come? Well that comes with more Depends than a keg party at the Old Soldiers’ Home.

Depends on what? When we are patiently waiting for wine grapes to finish ripening, we are waiting for a number of factors: flavors, acids, sugars, and pickers. Rain can adversely affect all of these factors. The plant sucking up a lot more water will cause the grapes to swell, thinning their skins. Rain will also dilute flavors, lower sugar levels, lower acid levels, and make it very hard to pick the fruit. Is that the end of the great wine the vintner had planned on making? Depends. Maybe the sugars were already too high and the plant can process the water, restore the flavors and balance the acids before the sugars soar again. How fast can pickers get into the vineyard so the plants don’t move all the water into the fruit? Depends. If you had a lot of rain on a very steep clay slope, the pickers can’t safely climb up and down the hill until the ground dries out. If your vineyard is on a valley floor, it may be prone to flooding and the tractors following the pickers can’t get in to haul the fruit out. If you have a small vineyard and rely on a vineyard management company to pick for you, guess whose phone was ringing off the hook last night and early this morning for every client left to get picked? Whole lotta Depends here. Noble Rot

Another extremely important factor is mold and rot. Sweet grapes have already attracted all sorts of creepy spores that are just waiting for conditions to be right to them to populate, grow, and do the nasty on your PHAT bunches of grapes. What are the right conditions? Wet, warmish, still air, tight bunches, thin skins, and a little time all contribute to grapes rotting away. You don’t need a CSI team ducking under yellow tape to analyze this. These grapes look and smell Yucky! You wouldn’t want to get these anywhere near your mouth. In a very small number of select instances, the dominant fungus will be Botrytis Cinerea as “Noble Rot”. In some varietals, this will produce magical flavors that drive many of us to a maddened neurotic passion that is brought on by the great dessert wines resulting from a proper handling of this icky fruit. If you are not already a convert, you MUST try Sauternes, Baumes de Venise, Tokay Aszu, Trokenbeerenauslese, Amarone, and a new bunch of late harvest or “Botrysized” dessert wines from North America.

For the most part, winegrowers are working themselves into a frenzy today and winemakers are getting ready for fruit. We are all watching the weather to hope that we get a strong breeze to dry out the grape bunches. We also hope that it gets hot and sunny enough to speed things along, not just gets warm and humid to make the rot spores feel right at home. Is the 2007 vintage in danger? Get real. We are SO past the days of stuffed-shirt pundits making broad swath declarations of quality that have no meaning on reality. Every Grower and Vintner will do their best with what they are given to get you the best wine that they can possibly make. Let’s wait to unscrew some caps and pop some corks in a couple of years to see what the Rains of October 9, 2007 meant to Northern California wine country.