Summer’s Almost Over… So Drink Up!

Though it may not feel like it here in the US, it’s almost time for the temperature to start dropping. Whether you’re enjoying a mild heat in New England, suffering through air quality warnings in the humid mid-Atlantic, or staying indoors to avoid the sweltering 110 degrees of the western deserts, all these hot times call for a crisp glass of white wine.

There are, of course, several styles to choose from, from the most aggressive, acidic thirst-quencher to the most pleasant, sugary summer sipper and many in between. If you’re planning to send summer out in style with a glass or two, I have a few recommendations that just might make the season seem less severe. Let’s go to the board:

Sauvignon Blanc: In case you haven’t been reading much of my blog, I can let you know that I swear by this grape. Especially those from New Zealand, the Sauvignon Blanc grape delivers a consistent experience whether it’s grown in France, California, or New Zealand: acidity with citrus flavors, as refreshing as a glass of ice cold lemonade. Very rarely a sweet wine, the Sauvignon Blanc is nevertheless a standard goto for inexperienced wine drinkers. Recommendations under $20: Barker’s Marque, Matua, Kim Crawford

Picpoul: Possessing an acidity and body similar to a Sauvignon Blanc, but with a lighter citrus (think lemon-lime) and more tropical flavor profile, the Picpoul is an underrepresented varietal wine here in the US. Typically from the Picpoul de Pinet region in Languedoc, France, this wine provides the same consistency as the Sauvignon Blanc. Also an aggressively dry wine, it’s still a very pleasant sipping wine. Recommendations under $20: Hugues de Beauvignac, Chateau Petit Roubie, Hugues Beaulieau La Petite Frog (3 liter box)

yellow and blue torrontes cartonTorrontes: Torrontes is a varietal wine that grows extraordinarily well on the western coast of South America. The combination of high altitude, long days, consistently mild seasons, and volcanic soil all create the conditions for a unique, fuller-bodied dry white wine to shine. Torrontes will have a floral and citrus profile, offering perfumey aromas that combine with a decent sweetness and acidity for a very soft, creamy experience. Novice drinkers will especially appreciate the straightforward flavors this wine offers. Torrontes is also a natural complement to most seafood dishes. Recommendations under $20: Gouguenheim, Yellow + Blue (1 Liter Tetrapak), Susana Balbo

Riesling: Riesling is a varietal wine that varies very greatly depending on its region and its winemaker. You can get syrupy sweet dessert wines, bone-dry, acidic tongue-tinglers, and everything in between with flavors across the fruit and floral spectrum. Depending on the terroir, you can also get a good dose of mineral or metal.  Recommendations under $20: Cono Sur, Dr. Loosen, Jacob’s Creek

What do you guys think? Any other recommendations for beating the summer heat? Need to know where to find some wines in your area? Leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to help!

Guest Post on Drink Nectar: A Guide to Wine Accessories

I got the distinct honor of guest-posting on Josh Wade’s Drink Nectar. Check out my quick consumer’s guide, Wine Accessories: Tools for the Journey Ahead, as well as the many other awesome posts on his blog. Few people work harder than Mr. Wade when it comes to spreading the good word of wine.

The 2010 Texas – Virginia Wine Summit Part 3: Independent Research

No post local today, but you can catch part 3 of the collaboration between me and Vinotology on his blog here: The 2010 Texas – Virginia Wine Summit Part 3: Independent Research. Have at it!

A Toast to the Future Spirit of Wine Blogging

I had been planning this post for awhile, but the past couple of days have been eye opening to this newbie wine blogger, and I figure now’s as good a time as any to write. I had finally settled into my role in the blogosphere after meeting and learning from several milestones a wine blogger could face:

  • Posting your first review and waiting to be sniped at by more knowledgeable writers
  • Posting your first review of a bad wine and enduring the fallout
  • Starting a weekly feature, then failing to continue it (though I’ll hopefully be reviving the Irreverent Weekend Reader)
  • Realizing how traffic arrives to your blog and strengthening those avenues
  • Botching a review and all the shame and guilt that accompanies it

Though I know I have a lot more to learn, which is like saying there’s a lot more of the ocean I have left to swim in, I was fairly certain I had at least found a groove. A couple sites have, in fact, reaffirmed a decision I made last week to change the direction of my blog. In an article at Palate Press, Tom Johnson says, quite plainly, that wine blogs are too personal, too uncontroversial to warrant a consistent audience. In a rather minute controversy, wine critic Stephen Tanzer took a swipe at wine bloggers in his new website, Winophilia, essentially calling us amateurs in the lowest sense of the word, then tempering it with a self-contradicting nod to “extremely well-done” but “sporadic… hobbyist” wine blogs. Ouch, especially if he doesn’t consider your blog of the “well-done” variety. Consider the riposte from Steve Paulo at Notes from the Cellar: “Stephen Tanzer is a Jackass.”

The feces can fly both ways, Mr. Tanzer. As of this morning, Stephen Tanzer has removed the offending words from his website, opting instead to leave the wine-blogging community completely out of his pitch. Very quick response to a PR issue, and a welcome nod towards our position.

I realized early on that my wit, enthusiasm and formal training in writing will not make up for a lack of knowledge and experience. I simply don’t have the time, resources, or palate training to consistently crank out reviews of wines five times a week. Even if I did, how would that distinguish me from every other wine blogger jousting for an admittedly tiny online segment of wine drinkers? It wouldn’t, obviously. What I need to find, and what I plan on searching for, is my niche. What have I got going for me that no one else does, or that very few others would? I think I have a few ideas…

But the change of direction doesn’t stop there. I’ve been sequestered on my site since the beginning, as have most bloggers. We write our reviews, and we read each other’s reviews, we occasionally comment, and that’s basically it. Some bloggers reach out to others, but largely the posts are simply output. We chastise people on Twitter who shout shout shout and never engage. Why don’t we try to interact more in blogs? How many times have your posts induced honest discussion in the comments? How difficult is it to link to another blog post that might be related, or to respond to another blog post with a post of your own? It’s a little bit of effort that has benefits beyond simple traffic increases. It builds relationships.

Just as a side note, Google loves those interlinked sites in its search engine. They make crawling and indexing real easy, and that impacts search ranking.

I’ve been working with Ben Simons at Vinotology on a Virginia-Texas Wine Summit, and it’s been incredibly fun and productive. It’s made me learn a lot about Virginia wine, and Ben’s side will teach me quite a bit on Texas wine. Best of all, the fruits of our labor will go to you, our readers, once it goes live. It doesn’t end there, either. What’s to stop, say, Michigan By the Bottle and Suburban Wino from holding a Michigan-Georgia Wine Summit? Maybe a California wine enthusiast wants to go in a different direction and make a case for the “Big Four” actually being the “Big One.” I read a blog comment yesterday that referred to Cali wine as “fruit syrup.” That’s gotta ignite a fire in someone, right? Anyone want to make some dialogue out of that?

As an example of an experiment that got recognition and views, Josh at Drink Nectar and Randy at The Wine Whore organized a video review and finished it with a 2500-mile-apart guitar and drum jam. Why not intersperse the daily reviews with a partnering with another blogger? What’s a crazy idea you’ve had to spice up your reviews? I talked once jokingly about a hip-hop wine review. I’ve got years of creative writing experience just going to waste right now, so why not, right?

We still need to review. We still get traffic from them, and they still prompt discussion, purchases, and occasionally controversy. I’m a fan of print wine publications, but why should they get all the fun and the final say? And what’s the harm in posting a review that *gulp* agrees with Stephen Tanzer? Why not quote another review within your own? I’m positive someone out there reading this has disagreed with one of my reviews. Why not call me out on it and discuss it? Lord knows wine makers have.

I linked to 8 blogs in this post, and I barely broke a sweat. I plan on doing this (and much more) in the future, and I hope you, my fellow wine bloggers, will join me in giving it a shot.

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Your Irreverent Weekend Reader: Feb 20-21

The weekend reader wraps up the week’s best blog posts and news stories and suggests relevant articles and stories for coming events.

The Oatmeal – This week’s reader isn’t quite as irreverent as last week’s. We’re going to be touching on a couple serious notes. Don’t worry, though, the Oatmeal is here to temper the gravity with a comic titled “20 Things Worth Knowing About Beer.”

Suburban Wino – This post really got me thinking about wine pairings. We all know the classic pairings with steak, pasta, seafood, etc… but what about Super Bowl fare? Joe takes the opportunity of an enormous spread of “man food” to wax analytical about the science of pairing wine with everything from clams to chicken wings. He also plays a little didgeridoo.

The New York Times – In case you haven’t heard, E & J Gallo was recently victim to a massive case of wine fraud. Their suppliers were passing off cheaper varietals as Pinot Noir, and those responsible have officially been found guilty. You can read all about the case developments in their article with the dazzling headline “Fraud in Wine Sent to U.S. from France.”

DrinkNectar- One of the issues that strikes a nerve with me is the horrid treatment wine gets at restaurants. Ridiculous prices, poor selection, awful presentation… it’s an industry-wide problem. Josh over at DrinkNectar wrote an incredible piece on basically every gripe there is to have with these issues, and the conversation in the comments has brought in a wide variety of perspectives, even from restaurant owners.

The New York Times – I hate to reference them twice in one post, but they knocked this out of the park. There’s been some focus on the detrimental effects of climate change on winemaking, and indeed they even touch on this in this article, but there are areas that would benefit from a little global warming. If current climate models are accurate, we could be seeing an influx of fine English wine in the future.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Your Irreverent Weekend Reader: Valentine’s Day Edition

The weekend reader wraps up the week’s best blog posts and news stories and suggests relevant articles and stories for coming events.

DrinkNectar – “The Dude’s Guide to Wine” – Guys, Valentine’s day is almost upon us, and chances are you haven’t finished planning. Wine can be an intimidating subject, especially when you’re trying to impress your date. This classic, steamy series combines wine sensibility with sex appeal to educate men on shopping for and tasting wine as well as ordering it in a restaurant.
Part 1: three reasons guys should know wine (rated PG)
Part 2: wine basics, characteristics of grapes (rated PG-13)
Part 3: tasting wines (rated R)
Part 4: ordering and buying wine (rated R)

Vintuba – “Puttin’ the dubya back in wine! Texas style, y’all…” – A guest post on Vintuba by Ben Simons of Vinotology, this story gives an incredibly informative insider perspective on the issues facing wine-makers in Texas.

Drinks Are On Me – “Drinking Alone on Valentine’s Day” An article by Dale Cruse countering the couple-centric wine posts on Valentine’s Day celebrations. Why not enjoy yourself regardless of whether or not you have someone for this corporate holiday?

And in case you need a laugh…

Notes from the Cellar – “Oh, For The Love of Bacchus…” Steve Paulo at Notes from the Cellar takes one for the team when he samples boxed wine from a big-box store. Thanks for that, Steve!

All these articles pair well with domestic, non-vintage, fortified, boxed sparkling wine, available at Costco for $7.99 a gallon. Happy reading, everyone!

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