Music Monday: Inappropriate for a Football Tailgate

Every Monday, I’m bringing you what I sipped on over the weekend as well as what I listened to to enhance the experience.

The Music

While this album is not one that will make you run through a brick wall, it’s still recently become part of my pre-game football ritual. Perhaps because it hearkens back to my first years in college, when I really became a college football fan, maybe because deep down I’m just a huge softy, whatever the reason, The Anniversary’s “All Things Ordinary” is a great example of the gentler music I listened to when I wanted to “rock out.”

The Wine

This weekend was much more an exercise in quantity, not quality, as we had a nice gathering of friends for the Virginia Tech football game. Thus, the goal here was to furnish enough for a group of widely varying tastes with as little expense as possible.

The solution? Trader Joe’s, obviously.

While the beer-friendly crowd sipped on New Belgium’s 2° Below (and… sigh… Bud Select), a fantastic and affordable winter ale from Colorado, those who had wine on the brain opted for a Rosé. Trader Joe’s has a fair selection of Rosés, mostly in their $4 to $6 value price range, and we opted for the 2008 La Ferme Julien Rosé for $5.

La Ferme Julien bottleAccording to Wine Harlots, La Ferme Julien is “the Trader Joe’s private label of the La Vieille Ferme that gets passing marks in the major wine publications.” That’s a good sign, especially considering some of Trader Joe’s bargain wines can be traced back to faceless, mass-produced California schlock vineyards.

So what of the wine? It had a very pure light red color, with a medium viscosity. The aroma was almost candy-like in nature, with sweet citrus, strawberries, and cherries. The flavor, though very dry, tasted a bit canned, stale, citrus-forward, just a touch of yogurt and lemon, and a strawberry candy finish. The acidity might be a touch high, lending it a tangy, thin texture, but other than that it had a decent balance. It drank well over the following day, maybe tasting a bit more stale, but still holding its flavor fairly well. I wouldn’t give it more than 24 hours, though.

If you’re looking to please the pink-drinkers in the crowd without spending a lot, I’d say you’d do okay with this one. 5/10

Wine: La Ferme Julien Rosé

Vintage: 2008

Producer: La Vieille Ferme

Region: Cotes du Ventoux, Rhone, France

Varietals: Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah

Alcohol: 13%

A Case Study on Quality to Price Ratio in Wine and Beer

The Background:

In social media, there’s a term that’s bandied about almost as often as the word “guru”: ROI, or Return On Investment. What are you getting for your time and effort? How are you converting your man-hours to sales or action? How many people are seeing your tweets, reading your posts, or watching your videos, then going out and doing what you expect of them? It’s one of those objective/subjective metrics, as one man’s value is another man’s excess.

In wine, there is a similar metric known as QPR, or Quality to Price Ratio. It’s a helpful thing to have in mind when considering which wines to buy. For a local example, there are two wineries that stand on opposite ends of the price spectrum (as far as North Carolina wines are concerned, at least): Cellar 4201 and Childress Vineyards.

Cellar 4201 charges a maximum of $14 per bottle, delivering an above-average experience on every wine. Their QPR is high.

Childress charges around $10 to $15 for their varietal wines and upwards of $40 for their signature wines. The QPR varies greatly depending on the wine and the price; for example, their Cabernet Franc varietal wine is worth a lot more than the $15 price tag while some of their signature wines may not impress at $40 or even $30.

With this in mind, I want to attempt to put QPR in perspective with a few wines and beers that I have in my collection at home.

The players:

Bud Light bottleBacchus Belgian SourEspiral Vinho Verde 2009Andre Lorentz Alsace Riesling 2003Chateau O'Brien Late Harvest Tannat 2007

Bud Light: $1.00 for a 12oz bottle (roughly $6 for a six pack) – We all know Bud Light. They have those funny commercials that never seem to make the beer taste any better.

New Belgium Mothership Wit: $1.50 for a 12oz bottle (roughly $9.00 for a six pack) – New Belgium is on the middle tier of craft beer; while not priced at the pinnacle of craft beer, they deliver good value compared to their competition at under $10.00 for a six pack, and they embrace organic brewing practices.

Delirium Tremens: $4.50 for an 11.2oz bottle (roughly $18.00 for a four pack) – You’re getting into the high end of craft beers available to the common consumer with Delirium Tremens (see my review of Delirium Tremens from earlier this week for specifics). You can get a four pack for just under 20 bucks, but, really, there aren’t too many people out there who’d need four of these guys in one sitting. That’d be like pounding two bottles of wine.

Bacchus: $11.00 for a 12.7oz bottle – With Bacchus, a sour ale painstakingly brewed and aged in a Belgian castle, you’re getting into the realm of beer that most people don’t know and don’t care to invest in. If you’re ever lucky enough to sample a sour ale, it’s a unique experience, though an acquired taste, and like the finest wine, it really requires an appreciation beyond the average consumer to justify the price.

Espiral 2009 Vinho Verde: $4.00 for a 750ml bottle – Most Trader Joe’s fans swear by their wine. You consistently get drinkable, flavorful wines at rock-bottom prices with an easy-to-browse, fairly varied selection. The Vinho Verde offers a lightly carbonated, very dry thrill that at least approximates the traditional Vinho Verde experience at a ridiculously low price.

André Lorentz 2003 Riesling: $11.00 for a 750ml bottle – The Rieslings of Alsace are notable for their embrace of the terroir, turning in a varietal wine experience that simply cannot be matched by other regions (except perhaps the northern vineyards of Germany). André Lorentz offers a basic Riesling in these regards that is comparatively affordable and a good value.

Chateau de Monthelie 2006 1er Cru Burgundy: $40.00 for a 750ml bottle – Coming from a good but not great 2006 vintage in Burgundy, the Chateau de Monthelie 1er Cru is a step below the Grand Cru, still recognized as being part of the top 15% of wine produced in the region. $40.00 is a fair price for what generally is a high-quality, mostly consistent experience.

Chateau O’Brien 2007 Late Harvest Tannat: $70.00 for a 750ml bottle – Pressed from a grape that was cast aside for its inability to properly mature in France, Tannat varietal wines have found a resurgence in the terroirs of Uruguay and Virginia, making them a rarity in the wine world. A late harvest Tannat wine is even harder to find, justifying the $70.00 price tag for what is ostensibly a high-quality unique dessert wine experience.

The Challenge:

To put these prices in perspective, consider the following decisions should you find yourself in a wine and beer shop with a given amount of cash:

If you had $12, would you rather have a single bottle of Bacchus, a bottle of the André Lorentz, a six pack of the Mothership Wit, or a half a case of Bud Light?

If you had $70, would you rather have a single bottle of Late Harvest Tannat, 6 bottles of the André Lorentz, or 70 bottles of Bud Light?

If you had $40, would you rather have a bottle of Burgundy 1er Cru, 10 bottles of Vinho Verde, or 40 bottles of Bud Light?

If you had $4, would you rather have a bottle of Vinho Verde, a bottle of Delirium Tremens, or 4 bottles of Bud Light?

There’s no right or wrong answer here… sometimes you want share a single high quality bottle in an intimate setting; other times, you want to furnish enough alcohol for a 12 person tailgate. If you’re doing the latter, investing in premier crus is a bad idea.

What do you think? What makes a good wine investment in your eye? Would you ever spend $70 on a single bottle of wine when you could get six of another?

7 for 7, A Retrospective List for 7 Months in Social Media

In a truly amazing stroke of timing, Darren Rowse of Problogger wrote a post titled Take the 7 Link Challenge on the 7-month anniversary of the day I officially joined social media for work (the day I activated my Twitter account). After reading Phil Buckley’s 7 Posts You May Have Missed, I decided that today would be a good day for a retrospective on my own blogging adventures thus far. 7’s supposed to be a lucky number, right?

Chateau O'Brien's Tasting Room

What posts would I use to introduce these random wine-drinking strangers to my blog?

1. Your First Post: West Wind Wines: A Taste of Blue Ridge Culture was as much a way to introduce my readers to me as to West Wind Farms. It’s one of my longest and most prosaic posts, engaging in some of my creative writing class chops that I had recently finish honing. The fact that I snuck in some personal information as I profiled the winery (I think) made this a proper introduction of me to the blogosphere. I led with my passion, and that’s as good a way as any, right?

2. The Post You Enjoyed Writing The Most: The 2010 Texas – Virginia Wine Summit Part 4: Eye on the Future was an absolute blast for me on multiple levels. I got to research the Virginia wine industry in great depth, which led me to learn a whole lot about it I never really knew. The facts I presented, I thought, made a great case for Virginia to be the next great wine region. I also got to collaborate with one of my favorite wine bloggers, Ben Simons of Vinotology, who represented Texas in the great debate.

3. A Post Which Had a Great Discussion: The Occasional Risk of Buying Local was my first experience with bad publicity. I didn’t think it through too well when I ripped a local producer for a Rosé that I sought out. There were two things wrong with what I did: I didn’t research the wine and I hadn’t established my reputation. I got a prompt response from the winemaker who, though he didn’t exactly defend the wine, did take issue with how I described it. I forget who it was who said it, but they were right (and I wish I’d known that in retrospect): we’re writing about someone’s craft of love, and we should be diplomatic even if we dislike it. Lesson learned (sort of). I repeated some of my mistakes when ripping another wine a few weeks later, though I was much more diplomatic about it.

4. A Post on Someone Else’s Blog that You Wish You’d Written: The Dude’s Guide to Wine Series by Josh Wade of DrinkNectar is a no-brainer. It’s by far the most fun I’ve ever had reading a post, and I keep going back to giggle at the none-too-subtle innuendo. Not only that, but it truly is a phenomenal guide for men who might otherwise be intimidated by wine especially in the context of a date with an intimidating woman.

5. A Post with a Title You Are Proud Of: How NASCAR Drivers do Cabernet Franc demonstrates the rare ability I have to be both clever and concise. Usually my titles are close to a dozen words long as I simply cannot express myself adequately any less verbosely. I’m not entirely sure why, but this blog title always struck me as a favorite. It’s punchy, it’s snarky, it only took 6 letters, and it (I believe) incites a question in the potential reader’s mind: “How DOES a NASCAR driver do Cabernet Franc, exactly?” I had fun, at least. I also think of it fondly because it inspired me to visit Childress Vineyards, my new favorite North Carolina winery. Go there and try the Meritage (the Cab Franc is sold out!).

6. A Post You Wish More People Had Read: DIY Ethics in Punk and the Wine Blog Movement combined my two favorite passions: wine and music. Best of all, I got a guest blogger, Matt Mauldin of Wineheimer, a veteran of both the punk music scene and the wine industry, who offered incredibly targeted insight into my concerns. I also got to vent about the past, present, and future exploitation of my favorite music movement, the much maligned emo genre with Matt to straighten me out on the specifics. Really, I wish that anyone who has ever taken an interest in my blog had read it. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I got way too many TL;DR responses.

7. Your Most Visited Post Ever: The Best Boxed Wine You’ll Ever Buy (No, Seriously!) has received, by far, the most attention of any of my posts, and it’s largely because of Google. It’s a bit of a sucker search, though, because the wine I reviewed was technically not a boxed wine but a Tetrapak. Because of the continued response and interest, however, I decided to conduct my boxed wine experiment, and now I’m receiving at least a third of my traffic each day from people searching for info about boxed wine. Consider that a lesson on studying your keywords and building around them, eh?

If any of my wine blogger mates decide to do this as well, comment here or link me up… I would love to read your personal take on this theme!

Spin the Wheel: Indie Music Wine Pairings, Reverse Edition

This week I’m going to pick the music to pair with given wines. This first one was inspired by Brian from Norcal Wingman, who suggested on my previous pairing post that my Jeniferever music video, what with all the snow and the chilly-looking guy trudging headlong through it, would pair well with an Eiswein. I had to agree, but it got me thinking about reversing this process.

Instead of choosing the wine to fit the music, I want to try to find a song that is the aural equivalent of a certain specific style of wine. I approached this idea briefly when I paired a Tokaji with “And You Lied to Me” by The Besnard Lakes, using the complex layered-guitar outro as a metaphor for the finish of a fine wine. Consider this an expansion of that line of thinking. First up? The Eiswein. If Eiswein were a music video, what would it be? I’m thinking “A Jagged Gorgeous Winter” by The Main Drag.

First of all, I just want to point out that the lead singers in the band are dressed as Calvin and Hobbes, and the rest of the guys are dressed as Snow Goons. That sets the stage for one of the silliest music videos I’ve ever had the privilege of watching. The music combines whimsical guitar, subdued bass, and electronic drums with a playful synth backdrop. The fact that they have people playing real instruments even though much of the music is very obviously programmed gives it that adorable sort of playing pretend feel that just accentuates the childishness of the video.

The lyrics themselves are a stream-of-consciousness jaunt through various childhood winter activities juxtaposed with college drama. There is absolutely nothing dark or mysterious about what they’re singing. Sure, they’re singing lines like “all the lies you told about me they were totally totally totally true,” but the general feel is more that all these relationship problems can be cured by a snowball upside the head, Susie Derkins-style.

Because of the sweetness of the music and the winter theme, of course I’m picking this song to match the Eiswein. Since I’ve been encountering a lot of white wine pairings with these music posts lately (not surprising, since the majority of my work music is uplifting and light-hearted), I’m going to strike out into red wine territory with a Primitivo. Let’s find a song that can embrace the juiciness that is a big red ripened in the long, hot Italian sun. My money’s on something from Alkaline Trio. Let’s try “Stupid Kid.”

Alkaline Trio is one of those bands that never quite settles with you. They play such gleeful, energetic music with fairly innocent lyrics, but there are always these ridiculously dark, almost ungodly undertones to their music. This music video is an absolutely perfect example of their music. Matt Skiba, the lead singer and lead guitarist, seems just a bit too manic as he sings about making relationship mistakes as a youth. The music video begins innocently enough with a child who struggles to fit in and develops a crush on his teacher. The last 30 seconds of the video, however, are a kick to the gut with how twisted it becomes.

A Primitivo is a bright, juicy, potent red wine, but there are always dark fruits present that keep the flavor from being too giddy. The ample Italian sun offers a fantastic ripeness to the wine that differentiates it from its Zinfandel cousin in other regions. It still has the ability to creep up on you with a high alcohol content, and it’s just a bit heavier than its rustic red fruit flavors would suggest. I’m actually drinking one as I watch this video!

DIY Ethics in Punk and the Wine Blog Movement

Josh: Today, it is my great honor to welcome Matt Mauldin from Wineheimer, veteran of both the DIY punk scene and the wine industry. I’m calling on his unique perspective to help me flesh out some recent thoughts I’ve had on music and wine (which, as you know, I often blend together even without reason). Specifically, I’ve noticed a certain parallel between the evolution of DIY punk and the rise of wine blogging.

Punk used to be a cultural curiosity, small sects of closely-bound performers who amassed a dedicated, hardcore following in their various scenes (D.C., London, Richmond, Pacific Northwest, etc). At some point, and I almost want to blame the emo movement for this, even though it’s still my favorite musical movement, bands such as Rites of Spring and Embrace began softening the punk sound and inviting bands like Texas is the Reason, Sunny Day Real Estate, and The Promise Ring to appropriate the sound for a much more pop-friendly style. For example, compare Fugazi, circa 1988, to Brokencyde, circa an era that should soon be forgotten:

As soon as these bands achieved commercial success, the genre rather suddenly morphed into a widespread pop culture fixture that is an utter mockery of the DIY ethics that founded the punk movement. As someone who was a member of the punk scene during those years of upheaval, what was your experience?

Matt: The way the DIY culture morphed into the mainstream in the late 90’s and early 2000’s was just a link in a long chain.  Just as early psychedelic rock morphed into commercial arena rock in the 70’s; glam rock, heavy metal, and hard rock into hair metal; punk rock into commercial new wave; hardcore punk into crossover metal- then eventually leading to commercial crunch-core; grunge and 80’s indie into commercial alternative; DIY into commercial pop-punk and commercial “emo”.

Emo band Still Life

Whatever the subgenre is, no matter how radical the sound- it’s only one or two steps removed from commercialization.  The key event in this chain is how the original movement adapts to the commercialization.  With punk, after the original wave was commercialized it went underground with hardcore.  After the hardcore style more or less morphed into metal, “hardcore” became DIY.  DIY was a plethora of styles- mostly based in in the original tenants of punk and hardcore.

The two leading styles commercially that grew out of this were melodic or pop punk, and emo (with its various incarnations).  Both of these styles were easily commercialized once fanbases was established.  Since then, music on the underground level has mushroomed- there are so many styles and there is so much going on… I don’t see central movements anymore as much as I see loose collections.  What I’m saying is that with any of these movements, the sound can easily be manipulated.  It’s the aesthetic that makes it real.

My experience being a part of the 90’s DIY scene was more or less about refusing not to be a part of it.  When I played in Car Vs. Driver, we believed in the infrastructure.  It was a fulfilling way for us to operate.  There was no worrying about where we were going, or about much of anything other than communicating our music through our aesthetic.  We shunned most any potential entry way out of that world.  The business of our band was done on a very primal level.  And when it was time to move on, we ceased to exist.  We could have played just about any style of music; it was our aesthetic that made us a part of that movement.

Josh: So what you’re saying, then, is that, like any innovation, it didn’t take long for people to figure out ways to commodify your music scene. The irony, of course, is that a movement in music that was expressedly built around self-reliance and purity was becoming diluted in order to bring in outside support.

Screamo band Suis La Lune

Because I grew up during the last throes of the DIY scene’s “death,” I experienced this music in the other direction. I began listening to the commercialized bands, then working my way back through their influences until I reached the Guy Picciotto and Ian MacKaye braintrust.

The reason I brought up this music history, of course, is to compare it to what is happening to wine writing today. Now, more than ever, wine is becoming an everyday consumer’s alcoholic beverage of choice. With the internet aiding the spread of hype for certain brands, with shipping so simple and prevalent, any consumer or any shop can get their hands on just about any wine, if they have enough money and willpower. This has taken the appreciation of fine wines from a “club” mentality spearheaded by a few centralized experts to a disorganized wave of bloggers who, though they don’t have the world experience of professional writers, still offer up reviews and opinions for mass consumption on the internet.

This isn’t to say that either side is right or wrong, or that either group will be phasing out of power. They still serve their separate purposes, just as bands still exist that are dedicated to the original DIY ethics while their pop compatriots proudly dumb down the spirit of the music in the name of a dollar. Obviously, I have an opinion on which one is better, though I understand that both serve their purpose and can even appreciate certain pop bands. It seems to me that a similar attitude exists in the wine-writing world. Again, I was not around in the wine world when internet writing really took hold, so I’m deferring to your wisdom on this. How would you say this current trend of wine-writing compares to the punk scene 20 years ago? Any conclusions we can reach as to the future of wine-writing based on this phenomenon of commodification?

Matt: Your perspective on coming into the music in interesting.  As much as my peers may lament some of the more commercial directions of that music, how bad can it be if it brings new people back to the roots… where it all came from?  I should appreciate the fact that there are probably people like yourself somewhere out there who appreciate what happened during that time because they were exposed to it commercially and had the interest to get to the core of it.  Nothing stays the same forever- emo either commercialized and moved out of the underground, or the movers and shakers stayed underground the music grew and changed.

Screamo band I Would Set Myself on Fire for You

I’m still pretty new myself when it comes to the wine-blogging thing.  Obviously, the DIY aspect of blogging is comparable to the underground music scene of the 80’s and early 90’s.  People are creating viable information sources out of informal projects.  Real and credible sources of information are born out of people’s creativity and initiative.  In wine, I think it’s already carved out a niche as being a nice compliment to traditional and professional information sources.  What will be interesting to see is what new identities are created for wine information.. what will stick.  Do people want wine to be de-mystified?  Or is the beauty of wine the complexity and details of the story, cultivation, production, and enjoyment.

Will wine blogging uncover some new region, previously unknown, because of that voice in the wilderness?  It definitely brings up new ideas and interesting questions.  I think ultimately, the biggest and brightest voices will consolidate and figure out a way to commercialize it to the extent that they can make a living from it.  At that point, I think you’ll see the original waves of blogging appear more closely resembling the traditional sources.  But with the accessibility of the internet to the masses, I’m sure there will always be a reinvention of wine and other forms of blogging going on beneath the established surfaces…

Josh: My original perceived outcome was less rose-tinted; my initial concern was that wine blogging would become commercial shilling by part-time writers who make spare cash by accepting corporate sponsorship with certain caveats as to which wines they should review, not unlike chain wine sellers who require their employees to suggest certain brands over others. By asking you to draw these parallels, though, I now see the artist’s perspective of it:

Wine bloggers write because they are passionate about their wine, and while some may stray down the road towards being “friends with benefits” with distributors, that independent streak that made DIY punk so pure will also continue to drive the wine-blogging community.

I especially like your “voice in the wilderness” message. There are underrepresented regions in the US that are gaining publicity because of bloggers who have a pure passion for local wines. Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Georgia… these states (and dozens more) all have collections of wine bloggers who strive to make their region’s product internationally respected. As long as there are aspects of the wine world to be discovered, there will be discerning, dedicated wine writers who will fight to get the word out.

As a parting gift to all the discerning punk lovers out there, I’d like to present a live video of one of the bands keeping DIY alive today: Suis La Lune from Sweden:

Matt Mauldin is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and has been in the wine and spirits business for over 13 years.  He enjoys all things wine, as well as sharing his thoughts and ideas about wine.  He also is into punk rock and disc golf.  Please check out for more.


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