Thursday, August 30, 2007

THE BIG DAY - Wine Library TV Episode #305

Look at the title! Gary drops a bomb on the Vayner-Nation!

read more | digg story

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Its incredible. To look at the way "business as usual" is still conducted in America, you have to see the shining machine of the greatest productive economy on earth. What you may not see however, is the festering pool of looters and death-worshipers waiting with their knives ready, to cut their "fair share" from the market.

Ultimately, looters like wholesalers and their Washington-men, depend on the labor and creativity and drive of the American Industrialist to survive. The only means by which they can generate income (the term "make money" actually refers to the uniquely-American ability to turn productive effort into revenue) is to strangle the individuals that actually do make money.

Imagine, if you will; that you are a winemaker in Virginia. It is the end of August and you are enjoying a fantastic crop and making the best wine you have ever made. You sell your wine in your tasting room for $20 a bottle and people really want to buy it. You are approached by the Virginia representative of Southern Distribution Co. (The largest wine and spirits wholesaler in the country) that tells you, "you won't sell all of this wine."

Excuse me?

"You should sell it all to us and let us sell it for you. That way we can sell it in other states. But we are only going to pay you $7 a bottle."

Ummm, what? You will sell my wine for me and give me 35% of what I think that its worth? No, that's OK, thanks for the offer. I can send it direct to all of my customers from last year, and they will love it.

And with that, Southern Distribution activates it's Washington Man (that's you, WSWA) and starts throwing money at judges, claiming that "there is no credible way to verify the age of the purchaser through an anonymous online sale, and because carriers have repeatedly failed to ensure that deliveries to minors are prevented." Right, that's why Southern is bent out of shape. How could I have been so stupid?

It couldn't possibly be because every winery that sells direct-to-consumer threatens the system by which every distributor and their Washington Men skim from the best that winemakers have to offer. It threatens the elevated price points that the American consumer has to deal with, just so that the winemakers make a pittance from their sales. It threatens the grip that distributors have held over industrialists since Prohibition. It threatens the credibility of politicians that receive the favors of lobbyists like the WSWA. It threatens the "American Way of Life."

But what do we hear from them? "Combating the abuse of alcohol generally, and underage access to alcohol specifically." It sounds to me, that you are the ones abusing alcohol.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Fear and Harp

Have you ever had a chance to sit and talk to your favorite bartender(s) when they weren't working? I had this opportunity last night at the venerable John Barleycorn pub in Lower Nob Hill. It was one of those time when you knew ahead of time, that you need to go to the ATM and prepare yourself along the way to stay up all night.

To make a long story short, after Dash joined me, we stayed until 1AM (6 hours) and our conversations finished with:

". . .So in effect, society is built upon a solid ground of fear and cynicism, and is only progressed by the occasional burst of independent, fearless thought-turned-effort. It takes one person to come along and refuse to believe that their idea is flawed or impossible, and to be fearless enough to go forward with it. That person proves it to others, which in effect ameliorates their fear and doubt of the now-not-so-unknown and adds greater plausibility to the idea; it now becomes a concept. The next step involves transmuting the abstract concept into a concrete product, hence production.

The difficult part is now attempting, with product in hand, to change the minds of a large part of the population. Depending on the desired effect, there are a certain number of forces working in direct opposition to the product.

The first two, as previously stated, are fear and cynicism. On a basic consumer product level, these are represented by examples such as:
  • Surgeon General's (government) Warnings.
  • Popular media taking a stance on the product/concept/idea.
  • A perceived lack of "sameness" from easily recognizable brands.
  • For products with severely disruptive properties (i.e. alcohol, drugs, guns), agencies (in this case, the ATF) and legislation are created to specifically control and monitor their usage, and to use force against their "misuse" when necessary.
However, the dynamic becomes much more cloudy when the the concept behind the product is what is being marketed. That requires the means of control to work much harder to shroud in a blanket of fear and doubt, effectively limiting the potential for large scale embrace of the concept and thus societal change. For example: the MPAA rates movies based on a dodgy set of criteria, and has the power to limit a movie's audience based solely on fear. That rating, plus what critics say about it, effect the overall impact of the film once it is released. The analogy would be a hurricane that loses force as it approaches land.

And even further, when an Idea is the focus of the marketing, the movement by those in power is to suppress that idea, once it is determined that the idea is contrary to the doctrine set forth by the rulers. Ron Paul, the outspoken but blacklisted candidate for the Republican nomination for President get no media attention, is branded by government as certifiable, and is ridiculed by the peons for his ability to think independently.

The bottom line is that ideas are the greatest threat to any governing body, whether it be civil, occupational, or even family. The only thing that can upset the status quo is the successful execution and realization of a contrary idea. Animals in nature tend toward homeostasis, effectively rendering the idea process unnatural. However, everything that has been achieved by humans, is as a result of bucking the system. The natural homeostatic quality of humanity is fear and cynicism. I make this assertion in the hopes that, at this juncture in my life, I can use this to constantly remind myself the the only rewards in life will come as the resut of an uphill, hard-fought battle against every other human in existence.

The above is what happens when you engage two 50+ year old bartenders in philosophic and political rhetoric-sharing over a half dozen pints of Harp lager. Cheers.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Have fun in Idaho. . .

Wine blogger Gary Vaynerchuk just announced yesterday that he would be judging the Idaho State Wine Competition next month. Have fun. For those of you that have never had an Idahoan wine, you may be a bit surprised. It becomes really surprising when you have two brown bags sitting in front of you and 160 years of collective wine experience staring at you, waiting for you to respond to their last question. Er,- Idaho?

Yesterday's double blind tasting featured two chardonnays: the first being Grgich Hills 2005 Estate ($40, Napa Valley), and Carmella Vineyards of the Snake River appellation of Idaho ($18). The Grgich was easily recognizable as being from California: ripe, canned pear juice and bananas caramelized over an oak log, with the distinct smell of hair perming solution. The other, had everyone through a loop: Sea breeze, lime, and funk; like sitting on the beach in Baja as a drifter offers you plastic chochkies for a dollar. We were sure that it was chardonnay, but couldn't figure out: A) if we liked it, B) If it was done on purpose, and C) where the devil was it from?

The answers to A and B were both yes. The style was unique and there were definite elements of terrior coming through on the wine. The wine had only 12% alcohol, compared to the 14.2 from Grgich. This wine was intriguing, no doubt; but where was it from? Guesses ranged from Michigan to Sonoma Valley to Central Coast. And then everybody was looking at me. Er,- Idaho?

The puzzled look on everybody's face was priceless. It said simultaneously, "they don't make wine in Idaho" and "How did you guess that right?" There are some really neat things going on in Idaho, with wineries like Sawtooth, Carmella, and Parma Ridge. They aren't like the fat and slovenly chards coming from Cali in the same price range. These are lean wines with limited oak, and a lot of motivation to get their name out.

Check out the Appellation America link (on your right) to read up on the Snake River appellation and if you can make it, go drink some wine with Gary in Idaho. Me, I'll be in Atlanta visiting my folks; but guess who is bringing some Idahoan wine with him?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Red, White and Blue?

I wrote an entire blog post, then hit the BACK button on my mouse. I am way to pissed off at this point to write it over.

That was my reaction to losing my blog post, just before my anniversary date with my girlfriend. Apparantly, everything worked out great. I went with the '98 Chardonnay and bought a bottle of red Burgundy from the restaurant. The Bourgogne rouge was refreshingly tannic, but was completely eclipsed by the butterscotchy deliciousness of the 1998 Michaud Vineyard Chardonnay. I couldn't believe how well this wine had aged. The oak develops seamlessly into the wine and creates a rich, heady experience that had us in silent smiles. It was the kind of good that makes you offer it to the waiter/sommelier. The bast part, this wine is available for purchase directly from Michaud, as part of his library selections that also include '00-Current Pinot Noir.

Red, White and Blue? (I found my post!! Blogger Rocks!)

Today is my second anniversary. We are getting ready to go to a great restaurant in San Francisco, and I have been trying to decide which wine to bring all friggin day. I have a 1998 Chard from Chalone, and a few other Pinot Noir options to choose from.

Bottom Line: It shouldn't require this much of my effort to pick one stupid bottle of wine, let alone from a selections that I already was comfortable enough to buy in the first place! Coastal Italian fare; game meats, cheeses, and fresh vegetables.

You know what? To hell with all of it, I'm bringing the Chard becaus thats the one tha I am most excited about opening, and if its corked, they wont charge me the fee. Whew!I'm glad thats out of the way, now what am I going to wear? Just kidding.

I am really excited that it's my second (ever) anniversary and I get to spend it with her in San Francisco. We had so many neat little places in Atlanta, that it's releaving to find a place that we are both equally interested in trying, that looks like it will fit in with the desired fare. It would be fantastic if this could be a semi-frequent dining experience.

Honestly, thats why we have been reluctant to venture out into the city's dining forum. Most of them just don't quite make it to what we want. Please don't misunderstand, I am not that guy that scoffs at Bennigans because its inexpensive family dining, I'm the guy that skips scoffing because he can't make up his mind on the wine list. We like restaurants for so many reasons that when we find a great one, its as if we struck gold, but inversely find ourselves feeling betrayed at the realization of a failed prospect. So Bennigan's definitely has it's place.

I have my finger's crossed.