commentary personal wine reviews


2014-04-10 15.01.11

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I completely forgot my anniversary! Well, not exactly. My sixth year of Under The Grape Tree came and went, as I felt that stroking my overexaggerated ego for the sake of stroking was a bit too gratuitous. Yeah, I’ve been at this for six years, whatever “this” is.

Recently, in an unintentional preparation for said anniversary, I was driving with my mom past our old house in Beavercreek, and I had the wildest hair to storm the homestead, run to the backyard and see if the venerable Grape Tree still stood vigil over the neighborhood kids’ imaginations.

It was a rather bleak day, and I chose not to push the envelope too much, retreating before peaking, yet the excursion hasn’t left my mind for one minute. I think about that beautiful, gnarly Grape Tree every day I go to work. It’s so funny how a big, mushrooming grape vine in my backyard fed me its grapes and fed my imagination, so that one day, I would be peddling the juices of its long-lost brethren here at The Party Source.

Guess the Good Lord had a plan after all.

Recently, Kymber Tymber dropped by with samplage from Winebow, including a host of Portuguese and Spanish wine:

Duorum Tons de Duorum White Douro 2012. Grade=Very Good. A blend of Viosinho, Rabigato, Verdelho, Arinto and Moscatel, this tasty white wine yields pretty tropical fruit notes, hints of mineral, dill and white flowers.

Foz de Arouce Tinto 2010. Grade=Outstanding. Baga and Touriga Nacional. Pretty red flowers, cherry fruit and wet stones comprise the palate of this light-to-medium-bodied red wine.

Joao Portugal Ramos Riserva Alentejo 2012. Grade=Outstanding. Trincadeira, Aragones and Syrah. Gorgeous red, with juicy cherry and red raspberry notes, juniper, licorice and spice box.

Joao Portugal Ramos Vila Santa Loios Vinho Red 2012. Grade=Outstanding. Aragones, Trincadeira and Castelao. Vibrant red fruits, exotic spices, a bit of herbaceousness and undertones of red plum skin, rosemary and baked earth.

Quinta do Passadouro Passa Tinto Douro 2011. Grade=Outstanding. Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. Bold, voluptuous red, giving you notes of black cherry, plum and red raspberry, along with mesquite, cigar box and crushed red flowers.

Wine & Soul Quinta da Manoella Red Douro 2010. Grade=Outstanding. Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Francisca. Storm the spice box as this splatters you with black cherry, black currant and dark plum notes. Clove cigarette smoke gets in there with a bit of roasted vanilla bean and espresso roast coffee.

Anima Negra AN/2 Mallorca 2010. Grade=Outstanding. Getting our nerd on with a blend of Callet, Mantonegre-Fogoneu and Syrah, this Mallorcan blend is intensely aromatic, radiating crushed violets, wild cherries, cigar smoke and dusty earth. Spicy hints of black pepper wander back and forth between blasts of creamy rich tannins and blackberry compote.

Enrique Mendoza La Tremenda Alicante 2010. Grade=Outstanding. 100% Monastrell (Mourvedre). Robust and full-bodied with its smoky blue fruits, clove tobacco and hints of roasted vanilla bean and cocoa. Smooth from beginning to end.

Marques de Grinon Caliza Pago Dominio de Valdepusa 2010. Grade=Amazing. I have been a huge fan of Grinon for some time, and this badass blend of Syrah and Petit Verdot does not disappoint. Sanguinesque with hints of rusted mineral, roasted game and blackberry fruits.

Castello di Neive Barbaresco Santo Stefano Albesani DOCG 2010. Grade=Outstanding. Beautifully done Nebbiolo, in all its glory. Full-bodied, with dark cherry fruit, dried herbs and hints of pepper and truffle.

Tenuta di Fessina Laeneo Sicilia IGT 2012. Grade=Outstanding. 100% Nerello Cappuccio. I’ve mentioned the Nerello Mascalese before, now here is its caffeinated sibling. Loads of red apple skin, black cherry, pomegranate, white pepper and dried herbs. Gorgeous stuff.

Roberto Voerzio Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2010. Grade=CORKED!

commentary wine reviews


2014-04-10 14.36.54 2014-04-10 14.37.08

I had this existential moment the other day, watching TV with my wife, and it struck me as odd, that in a day and age where there is so much information out there in the ethers, we as human beings miraculously gravitate toward all the misinformation that is perpetuated by people apparently bored with their own existences, they propagate half-truths and lies for the sake of their own entertainment.

Getting on Facebook and spend five minutes there and you’ll have all the evidence you need.

People think because it’s on the internet, it’s automatically true. Bloggers with their own agendas and their own skewed perspectives on the world taint the waters a bit, and folks looking for something like-minded with which to identify seamlessly interject these half-truths into their FB timelines and viola! Instant disinformation. It spreads a bit like an STD and before you know it, everyone is going off half-cocked on something that ends up – usually – being nothing.

Makes no sense to me.

And that’s where the epiphany came in to play.

Those with an agenda have utilized the Web for their own gain, and humanity’s downfall. Instead of getting credible sources to glean your information from, we’ve been relegated to relying solely on propaganda machines. I always chuckle at the term “liberal media elite” because at least it used to be most of those media outlets had investigative journalists who dug deep into the story and sought out the truth without any political bent.

These days, everyone’s got an agenda and it’s as obvious as whiskey beak.

I sat there wondering, and I am wondering still, how the hell did we all get here? And more to the point, why? I try to steer away from politics on this blog any more, but I think fundamentally, one has to wonder, why we elect such incompetent people? You would think that if they work for us, we would want the most qualified person to serve in the respective positions to which they are being elected, not simply the richest. What does that accomplish? Well, you’re looking at it now.

Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent… it should not matter the party affiliation, it should matter the qualifications. As a Democrat, I lean more liberal, but if a particular election demonstrated the most qualified candidate is a Republican, I’m voting Republican for that candidate. These days all we get are two complete nutjobs, just opposite ends of the whack-a-doo spectrum. Why? Because they were the candidates who could afford to run.

These days, democracy is truly dead here in America. It’s an oligarchy, it just happened in the dead of night, why everyone was on Facebook, swapping bullshit “infotainment” stories and reposting some sociopath’s blogposts.

Maybe I just need to unplug the social media.

And speaking of unplugging, our TPS Grand Crüe member Jay Zee just got back from South Africa a few weeks ago (as well as just tying the knot – congrats bro!), and it was a bit of irony that upon his arrival Kymber Tymber dropped in for a pre-Portugueser tasting with two South African reds (and a 20 Year Tawny Port):

Glenelly Grand Vin de Glenelly Red South Africa 2007. Grade=Outstanding. Previously reviewed. I reviewed this wine almost 4 years ago, and here it is again, showing pretty well. The earth tones have taken center stage here, yet still the black fruits are there, beating their proverbial chests in bold bravado. Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

Glenelly Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch 2009. Grade=Outstanding. A gorgeous, full-bodied red, accentuated with black currant, elderberry, petrol, cedar char and tobacco. A bold, robust, earthy Cab meant for roasted meats.

Ferreira 20 Year Tawny Port. Grade=Outstanding. Creamy caramel, butter toffee, and roasted hazelnuts emerge from this pretty sexy port wine. Beautifully made.

personal wine wine reviews



I have an issue with admiration. Whenever it comes to a “rock star” – be it an actual rock star, an actor, writer, or even a winemaker – I find myself trying really hard not to be THAT guy. You know, fanboy, geek, devoid of any social skills in the presence of an idol.

In another life, when I was an allegedly professional musician, I would on occasion run into people who were far more famous than I could ever hope to be. Back when there was an emergence of hair metal bands from L.A., one particular band, Warrant, had just broke through and were on the verge of blowing up when they came to Myrtle Beach – this was like, 1989. My own rock ‘n roll fantasy was still plodding along as I was fronting a “thrash” band and relegated to rehearsing in a beauty parlor (God Bless You Linda Jackson), when I met Steven Sweet, Warrant’s original drummer.

The memory strikes me as funny, because even then I understood what fame must be like, being emotionally groped without any thought or courtesy. You see magazines and watch on TV the championing of celebrity, building people up just to tear ‘em down. Bullshit really.

So here I was, hanging on the patio outside the infamous King’s Road Tavern (RIP) when I start up a conversation with Steven, who I discovered hailed originally from Ohio, and his folks would bring him and his family down to Myrtle Beach on vacation. They stayed up at the KOA Campgrounds up in North Myrtle. Of course, my shellshocked guitar players came out and immediately interjected into the conversation, “we’re in a band.” Masters of the obvious, and killers of simple conversation they were, and Steven ambled off, clumsily, to join his own band mates.

I’ve met a lot of people over the years. Yet those are tales for another time.

These days, my rock stars are winemakers, and none is bigger to me than Mia Klein, winemaker for Selene. I’ve stated before, she’s my Eric Clapton. And I’ve been a huge fan of her wines since I first tasted them years ago, when I was slinging juice down the street at Mordor.

Recently, Sho-Nuff was in with two of Mia’s great wines, plus a little rosé from Charles Bieler:

Bieler et Fils Coteaux d’ Aix-en-Provence Rosé 2013. Grade=Very Good. Bright and cherry strawberry and cranberry notes say their hellos as a soft vanilla bean and dried herb undertone entertain your palate.

Selene Sauvignon Blanc Hyde Vineyard Carneros 2011. Grade=Outstanding. Previously reviewed. Holding up exceptionally well. Displaying hints of key lime pie amidst a matrix of dill and cilantro, giving you an explosion of herbs as well as subtle citrus notes.

Selene Cabernet Sauvignon Dead Fred Vineyard Napa Valley 2006. Grade=Amazing. I’ve reviewed every vintage of her Napa Cab since the 2005 (2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009) yet somehow this one slipped by me. Big and bold, yet showing off some sexy, velvety red and black fruits, plush tannins and oodles of creamy chocolate, vanilla and brown sugar notes. Mint and sage emerge from slumber, and elements of toasted oak rise up to greet your palate as the fruit and spice notes linger.

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SAM_1227 I seem to skip all the usual reasons to blog – Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter – not because I am lazy but because I feel as if everyone else in the blogging realm does it so why should I? I mean, what goes with hard-boiled eggs, smoked ham or Peeps® candy? I’d say, grab a bottle of good dry rosé and enjoy yourself. Next! I’ve been a bit lacksidaisical here at UTGT as of late though, for no other reason that I’ve just been busy. I am sure a lot of folks who spend their free time blogging get the same way, ask the same questions of themselves, like “what the fuck am I doing?” and “does anybody read this shit, anyway?” I have managed to cleave together some industry folks and local customers from here at TPS as my readers, and to all of them I am always grateful they endeavor to read my ramblings on a regular basis. I’ve gone off on interdimensional tangents, ranted and raved incoherently at times, shared way too much about my personal being, and occasional reminisced about the wine samplage with which my sales reps have plied my buying power. It’s funny thinking about how I went from being this nerdy kid who cried about every little social calamity in the playground except for whenever I was getting my ass kicked, to a long-haired, rebellious Yankee living precariously in the South as a proud-as-Hell liberal, to now, comfortable with my middle-aged potbelly, my kinship for marketing strategies, and my super-geekness for anything alcohol-related, without really spending much time drinking said alcohol-related anything. Here I am. Rock you like a hurricane. Recently, New Matt from RNDC (henceforth to be known as Colossus), dropped in with some new fruit-infused wines from Bella Sera: Bella Sera Frescata Pesche NV. Grade=Very Good. Light, vibrant and touched with a hint of peach amidst its citrus bombast. Bella Sera Frescata Limone NV. Grade=Very Good. Light-bodied, with nice acidity and a sublime presence of lemon. Bella Sera Frescata Arancia Rossa NV. Grade=Outstanding. I love anything blood orange, and here you can sense the blood orange mixing it up with lemon, lime and quince. Bella Sera Frescata Pompelmo NV. Grade=Very Good. Graepfruit, unlike the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that tend to get obnoxious with their grapefruity allusions, here the infusion is subliminal, a seductive whisper in the ear if you will. Yeah, these are wines. Yet they cry out more for mixing with vodka or gin, over ice, and enjoyed as a summertime cocktail. And yeah, I am sure to lose whatever credibility I may have with the uber-wine-geeks, but these are pretty good, and can be enjoyed by the average schmoes like myself, and for all you supersnobs, if you were handed a glass of one of these by (insert the name of the movie star you most lust after here), you’d drink it too, and you’d like it.

being social commentary personal wine reviews


2014-04-10 14.32.57

I was walking around in the grocery the other day, whizzing about trying to pick up things for dinner, trying to get in and out and get home to the Mrs. as quick as possible when I ran into someone from ol’ Mordor.

Not quite two years ago I bid farewell to an amazing group of people whom I still miss and still think of as friends.  Yet running into her, as it is with most anyone from there I run into anymore, reminds me of a bittersweet moment in my professional and personal life, one I care not to repeat.  Those feelings are not reflective upon her, she is an awesome person who has seemingly become quite valuable to the Orc royalty over there; dare I say indispensable.

I hope she, and all my former colleagues are being respected and appreciated for what they contribute; I never truly felt I got either of those while I was there.  I was fortunate to land on my feet, in town, with the most awesome store down the street, and count my blessings that the Divine Miss M found a spot for me on her team.

Yet talking to my dear old friend from the land of Sauron, those wounds began to reemerge, if only for a split second.  It’s odd to speak of a job as if it were an old lover who had suddenly spurned you, yet in some ways, what I felt was every bit akin to my first divorce.  I felt a failure, beaten, dejected.  It’s stupid to give a job such power, yet much to my own detriment, I take my job personally.

We spoke of how each other’s job was going, she explaining how things fit together in the family makeup, and I showing off my newfound sense of peace having found a place of work not so volatile and nepotistic.  I know in this industry, we’ll see each other a million or so times again, yet walking away and saying goodbye felt final in a way.  Perhaps I was saying goodbye to the feeling, in that moment, of failure, of weakness.  Maybe in that moment, the past was finally dead and buried.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Kymber Tymber dropped in with a state relaunch for Camelot wines:

Camelot Pinot Grigio California NV.  Grade=Good.  Decent stone fruit and a squeeze of lemon.  Blaise on the finish though.

Camelot Chardonnay California NV.  Grade=Very Good.  Loads of tropical fruit, vanilla cream and butterscotch candy.

Camelot Pinot Noir California NV.  Grade=Very Good.  Varietally correct, with dried cherries, plums and hints of black pepper.

Camelot Merlot California NV. Grade=Good.  Juicy red, with hints of blue fruits, but falls short at the finish.

Camelot Cabernet Sauvignon California NV.  Grade=Very Good.  A big, ol’ juice bomb, with cherry pie, blackberry smoke and baking spices.

commentary off-site events personal wine reviews


2014-03-25 14.21.20 2014-03-25 15.02.49

2014-03-25 14.12.25 2014-03-25 14.13.17

Getting settled into some semblance of a groove, I have been feeling really good about the future.  I am looking forward to a bit of road trippin’ this summer, the store keeps rockin’, and I feel pretty confident in my place here at TPS.  To say it’s been a long time in the making would be an understatement.  Yet I’ve had to come to terms with a couple of things to get here.

First off, I’ve had to see things more positively, not be so paranoid as to think I am going to get a pink slip at the drop of a hat.  This is a business, and no matter how personal you can take things sometimes, it’s simply a matter of professionalism that needs to be maintained.

Secondly, what is past is past.  Whatever b.s. my former employers may have done to me, or put me through, whatever the case, it’s over.  And I am much better for it.

Forgive me.  This exercise in E.S.T. is a bit redundant and some deja-vu thrown in (we’ve been here a few times before my friends), yet I feel like the monkey has been shaken off my back, and sent packing back to whatever wildlife reserve from which he may have come.

I have some awesome bosses in the Mighty Jon Stiles and the Divine Miss M (CEO Jon Stiles and Wine Director Mary Dorr respectively) and cohorts here at TPS that are second-to-none.

In the meantime, I recently took a trip to Paris, KY with M and Antonio Le Tigre, to the DTK (De Wet’s Toast of Kentucky) Annual Trade Show.  There were some pretty cool wines down there, including the always awesome Massanois Imports, plus new arrivals from Sans Liege, a few old faves reintroduced by Cat Wine USA, and a few incredible finds from Argentina:

Pertimali di Livio Sassetti Prosecco Brut NV.  Grade=Outstanding.

Pertimali di Livio Sassetti Rosso di Montalcino 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.

Pertimali di Livio Sassetti Brunello di Monalcino 2008.  Grade=Amazing.

La Querciolina Montecucco Sangiovese 2010.  Grade=Outstanding.

La Querciolina Istriciaia Maremma IGT 2009.  Grade=Outstanding.

Jean-Max Roger Sancerre “Les Caillottes” 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.

Jean-Max Roger Pouilly-Fume “Chante-Alouettes” 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.

Jean-Max Roger Sancerre Rouge 2009.  Grade=Outstanding.

Pierre Henri Morel Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc 2012.  Grade=Very Good.

Pierre Henri Morel Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.

Pierre Henri Morel Vacqueryas 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.

Etim Blanc 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.

Etim Negre 2010.  Grade=Outstanding.

Almodi Petit Negre 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.

Autor Crianza 2010.   Grade=Very Good.

Autor Reserva 2004.  Grade=Very Good.

Mil Pedras Viognier Mendoza 2013.  Grade=Outstanding.

Benevenuto de la Serna Reserva Malbec 2008.  Grade=Outstanding.

CORE MGS Blend 2009.  Grade=Very Good.

CORE Elevation Sensation 2008.  Grade=Outstanding.

CORE Alta Mesa Mourvedre 2008.  Grade=Very Good.

CORE Mister Mourved 2007.  Grade=Outstanding.

Peirano The Unknown Red Blend Lodi 2010.  Grade=Very Good.

Sans Liege En Gedi Grenache Santa Barbara County 2010.   Grade=Outstanding.

Sans Liege Transcendalist Santa Barbara County 2010.  1.5 liter.  Grade=Amazing.

The Neds Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2013.  Grade=Outstanding.

The Neds Pinot Gris Marlborough 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.

The Neds Pinot Noir Marlborough 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.

Anne Amie Cuvee A Amrita Blend Oregon 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.

Mangria White NV.  Grade=Blah.

Mangria Red NV.  Grade=Blah.

I should note that the Mangria wines were a really big shock (I wasn’t aware that these wines were at 19% alcohol for the White and 25% for the red).  They drank more like liqueurs than wines, and definitely needed something like soda or juice to tame them down.  And at $20, they really turned me off.  A shame, but sangria is not something I want to be potent, I want it to be refreshing.  The Neds wines were really cool, and the standout for me was the Mil Pedras Viognier – a real sleeper hit.

There were other wines there as well, and the food they had in conjunction with the wines was genius (local food suppliers showing off some of their wares, like Berkwood Farms showed off their pork ribs, and there was some dessert company out of Louisville that had desserts to die for – seriously.

Thanks to Nic, Barry and Crystal, and everyone at DTK for a great day.

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2014-03-24 14.41.53

It’s funny the things you take notice of as you get older.  Hearing eighties hair metal bands on classic rock radio, getting bummed out because you missed a Mork ‘n’ Mindy reunion of sorts on Robin Williams’ new TV show, and the passing of Harvey Korman, aka Hedley Lamarr (the bad guy in Blazing Saddles).

Blazing Saddles is one of my all-time favorite movies.  I’ve seen it so much I know all the dialogue, and all of the songs (and I even know when the TV version kicks in, and all the alternative dialogue).  It’s ridiculous I know, yet it has a very dear spot in my heart.

Believe it or not, my grandmother took me to see the movie when I was nine.


Poor Grandma Keith had absolutely no idea what she was getting into, and neither did I.  Yet it showed at the Kettering Fox Theatre off of Dorothy Lane in Dayton, OH.  It was 1975, the year after Blazing Saddles came out, the Fox was a cheapie theatre, you went there for $2 matinees on Saturdays.  After the movie was over, you can only imagine my Grandma’s reaction:

“Now we can’t go see those kinds of movies again… Grandma gets embarrassed too easily… and let’s not tell your mother about this one, we would both be in trouble…”

Most folks these days don’t remember Harvey Korman.  He was priceless on the Carol Burnett Show.  Him and Tim Conway, comedy gold.  And he appeared in other Mel Brooks’ movies, like High Anxiety and Silent Movie.

Hedley Lamarr, you will be missed.

A few things that have been in my glass lately…

Merino Syrah Limari Valley 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  Dark cherries, dried herbs and minerals abound in this medium-bodied red wine.  A stunning red for around $20.

Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast 2011.  Grade=Amazing.  Had this one recently with my wife, a couple of steaks and a great Spring night.  Big, rich, full-bodied, all you could ask for in a California Cab and then some.  Hands down one of my favorite Cabs.

Ridge Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 2005.  Grade=Amazing.  Gorgeous, showing off golden honey, baked apple pie, pineapple and creamy vanilla.  Holding up exceptionally well.

Montes Alpha Pinot Noir Colchagua Valley 2007.  Grade=Outstanding.  A beautifully done Chilean Pinot Noir, light and dry with soft cherry fruit, cranberry, truffle and black pepper.

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir Colchagua Valley 2009.  Grade=Very Good.  Holding up nicely, this Chilean Pinot Noir has bright cherry and mulberry notes, dried herbs, light spices and black pepper.

personal wine reviews


2014-03-21 21.32.18

Ever since I was ten, I have been carrying around in my head all these different story ideas.  I’ve always wanted to stop whatever it was I was doing, and try to commit a few of them to paper.  I tried to describe what it was like to someone the other day, having all these story ideas rolling around in my noggin.  I stated it thusly:  It is like walking into a major league baseball stadium, filled to capacity.  And every single person in the ball park is a story, screaming it out at the top of their lungs at me, all at once.  I walk around all day like that, all these stories yelling at me, trying to get my attention, wanting me to listen to it and document it.

My brain is a din of confusion, an unholy racket, and I rarely can hear myself think.  (And my wife wonders why I am always tuning out.)

This year the hope is that I can carve out enough time to work on a few of them, yet writing novels requires serious discipline.  Stephen King says you need to write about 10 pages a day every day to get a novel finished in a timely manner.  I think I may need to open my own Starbucks at home to keep me going at night anymore because once I get home from work, all I can seem to do is meld with the couch and become functionally oblivious.

Meanwhile, at one of the last Hit or Sh@& tastings at the store, I wheeled out some new South African wines:

Flagstone “Noon Gun” South Africa 2012.  Grade=Good.  A blend of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and something called Nouvelle (a cross between Semillon and Ugni Blanc).  A bit odd with hints of stemmy green fruits and course mineral.  Maybe a bad bottle?  Maybe needs to be fresher?

Flagstone “The Rumour Mill” Viognier South Africa 2012.  Grade=Very Good.  White peaches, apricots, white currants, mineral and a hint of petrol.  Very nice, light-bodied and fragrant.

Flagstone “Longitude” Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon-Malbec South Africa 2011.  Grade=Very Good.  Chewy, medium-bodied red showing off tobacco, leather, black fruits and mineral.

Flagstone “Dragon Tree” Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz-Pinotage South Africa 2012.  Grade=Very Good.  Bold, chewy, full-bodied red with blackberry, mulberry, dried herbs, bacon fat and black pepper.

commentary off-site events wine reviews


2014-03-19 15.01.05

I have tried to avoid chiming in on any recent debate amongst the wine writing elite, as my pithy opinions pale in comparison.  Though I am an industry insider, and I do have about 20 years of experience in the wine biz in one regard or another (retail, restaurant, etc.), I am still one of those ne’er-do-wells who sit upon the sidelines, always dreaming of getting into the big game, but alas, never getting the coach’s call.

There has been an infinite number of posts recently concerning a tasting in Napa Valley conducted by San Francisco Chronicle wine writer Jon Bonne and New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov, who led a panel of writers and wine geeks in a flight of Napa Valley wines which had nothing in common with the norm – more Bordeaux-like Cabs, unique white blends, and many others, with wines produced from the likes of Corison, Chappellet, Turley, Matthiasson, and others.

Robert Parker, the wine world’s equivalent to Rand Paul, was apparently dismissive of these wines, interjecting that they came off as “largely emaciated, excessively acidic, hollow wines.”  Of course, he wasn’t there – his lieutenants Jeb Dunnuck and Lisa Perrotti-Brown M.W. were in attendance.  This in turn has set off a firestorm of backlash against Wine Advocate, who have over the past two decades, have seemingly championed big, massive, highly-alcoholic fruit-bombs in lieu of everything else.  As polarizing as they may or may not have been in the business, it could be safely argued that the vast contingent of anti-Parker writers and bloggers have begun championing the exact opposite end of the wine flavor spectrum.

I think it is safe to say that trying to argue whether one taste profile is “better” than another would be as difficult as arguing what is the better color – blue, red, green, magenta, periwinkle – or perhaps an even more ridiculous and polarizing argument would be, what god is better – God, Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, Shiva?  Talk about things ending up in bloodshed.

I get why Parker and his crew advocate the bigger wines – they are typically crowdpleasers, these big ass wines.  And I get why the uber-geeks and anti-Parker contingent go for the more acidic wines, with a presence so sharp you could cut somebody’s head off with them.  Acid freaks.  I count myself one of them.

Yet I am a retailer.  And in my experience, there has to be something for everybody.  And there is.  The world of wine is phenomenally diverse, extraordinarily so.

I’ve had customers who buy wines solely off points, thinking it is a matter of quality, and to some extent it is.  Yet the pretty wines, the acidic wines shouldn’t get big scores because the scores are designed to rank the amount of body a wine possesses.  A light-bodied wine, you should expect a lower score than a big ol’ Napa Cab.

Six years ago, I began this wine blog, in part to respond to, and in some ways retaliate against Parker and the like, myopically viewing the wine writing world as the old ones vs. the new ones (Parker et al were the old).  Over the past six years, I have turned my misplaced ire away from other writers and reviewers, reflecting inward, and focusing onward, abdicating the judging of my peers for the sake of a more diplomatic exploration of the grape and its impact on my customers and the microworld that is metro Cincinnati.  I have realized I cannot judge what happens in other parts of the country or world because I am not there, and I am not knowledgeable enough to pass judgment on anyone, nor would I want to do so.

I am by no means a journalist.  Writing a paltry little local wine blog does not a journalist make.  I am not in this for money.  I am in this for the love of wine and the wine business.  It is my job, and the job of my colleagues to help each and every customer find the right bottle of wine, for whatever occasion it may be – dinner, a celebration, a wedding, a gift – and whether it be a big ass fruit bomb, or something for the acid freak, or most likely something in-between, nothing is better than matching up the right wine with the right customer.  Points or no points, New World or Old, it’s all about the customer.

So, does that confuse you enough already?  Find out more about the fracas over at the great Terroirist blog site.

And speaking of the Wine Advocate, at least in a roundabout way.  My mentor, and original Party Source Wine Buyer David Schildknecht’s last gig before becoming a full-time writer at Wine Advocate, Vintner Select was hosting their annual Rhone tasting and Chateauneuf-du-Pape seminar.

Vintner Select always rocks a trade event.  Recently, I went up to the VS warehouse in Mason, Ohio with The Divine Miss M and Antonio Le Tigre for their 2012 Chateauneuf-du-Pape seminar and subsequent tasting.  In their kitchen, local chef David Cook was turning out ridiculous finger food like cups of mushroom risotto, lamb finger sandwiches and more, and at five tables, VS and Wines of France were demo’ing amazing reds, whites and pinks from the Rhone.

There was a lot of great wine (but I will hit the “amazing” highlights):

Bosquet des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Chante Le Merle” 2012.  Grade=Amazing.  Timid, yet revealing some pretty complex notes of black and red currants, crushed stones, licorice, duck fat and dried herbs.

Domaine de la Charbonniere Vacqueryas Rouge 2012.  Grade=Amazing.  This may very well be my favorite Vacqueryas, a standout for the price.  Bold, zesty and full of body, showing off loads of mineral, black fruits, blueberries and crushed violets.

Domaine de la Charbonniere Chateauneuf-du-Pape Hautes Brusquieres 2012.  Grade=Amazing.  Black licorice, espresso, cigar box and leather notes emerge in this sweet-fruited, full-bodied wonder.  Just out-of-this-world right out-of-the-gate.  A decade will give this time to get even better.

Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012.  Grade=Amazing+.  What more can you say about this producer than they have become one of the best Chateauneuf-du-Pape producer, bar none.  Full-bodied, rich, seriously complex, this decadent monster lays on thick the bold fruits, dark spices, tobacco and mineral, yet still maintaining the grace and elegance of its pedigree.

Domaine Lafond Lirac Blanc 2013.  Grade=Amazing.  Primarily Grenache Blanc, this pretty much brought my palate back from the dead with its pretty backbone of acidity, lively notes of lemons and peaches, and supple mineral characters.

Domaine Lafond Tavel Rosé 2013.  Grade=Amazing.  The quintessential rosé from the Rhone, this is yet again, a stunning effort.  Bright acidity tethered by fresh and lively notes of strawberries, raspberries and mineral.

Domaine Olivier Hillaire Chateauneuf-du-Pape Petits Pieds d’Armand 2012.  Grade=Amazing+.  May have been my favorite of the day.  Big, bold and full-bodied, yet still demonstrating its shyness.  Gorgeous notes of crushed violets, licorice, blackberries and dried herbs.

Domaine Moulin-Tacussel Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012.  Grade=Amazing.  A bit new to the Wines of France portfolio, and a remarkable new edition, this phenomenal red is predominantly Grenache, exhibiting classic CDP styles of dark red fruits, dried herbs and saddle leather, with a freshness and a verve unequaled.  Bold and robust, finishing gorgeously.

Some other standouts were the Chateau Sixtine CDPs, the Domaine de a Cote de l’Ange CDP Tradtion 2012, and the very cool Cros de Romet Cairanne Cotes-du-Rhone-Villages Rouge 2012.  With over 50 wines total, there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch.  Clearly Vintner Select continues batting a thousand.

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The wine business ebbs and flows with the ferocity of a hurricane at times, and good people transition from job to job, and from one quintessential moment in their lives to the next.  Still, I was more than a bit surprised to see on the website, Cinnabar’s Suzanne Frontz was retiring.

I have always been a huge fan of Cinnabar, a terrific California winery hailing from the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, and of course, with a name like Cinnabar, the closet geologist in me gets pretty excited.

I met Suzanne twice in my career, yet hadn’t seen her in a few years.  Both times I was at Mordor, in 2010 and 2011.  Suzanne was always passionate about her wares, the Cinnabar wines I mean.  And it was a pleasure to host her in our humble little wine store back then.  I hope she drops in on me her next visit out to this part of the country, in whatever capacity and whatever aspect of the wine industry she may be in.  Wishing you well on your newest endeavor, Suzanne!

And in keeping with a similar subject, Cinnabar’s distributor here in the Tri-State, Vintner Select, recently hosted their 2012 Chateauneuf-du-Pape seminar, with Wines of France’s John Junguenet.  On deck were some of the latest releases from some of the Rhone’s best producers:

Chateau Fortia Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvee du Baron” Rouge 2012.  Grade=Very Good.  Lighter than I expected, soft and clean red fruits, earthy spices and hints of dried herbs and roasted game.  45% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre.

Clos des Brusquières Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2012.  Grade=Outstanding+.  80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre, 4% Cinsault and 1% 9 other grapes, this is full-bodied, spicy and intriguing with dark fruits, black and pink peppercorns, baking spices, bacon fat, roasted game and provençal herbs.  In the running for my favorite of the day.

Bosquet des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Tradition” Rouge 2012.  Grade=Outstanding+.  75% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 1.5% Cinsault and 1.5% Counoise.  Loads of red fruits, baking spices, dried herbs, cloves, crushed violets, and roasted venison.  Incredible.

Domaine Tour Saint Michel Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvee du Lion” Rouge 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  75% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre.  Has a really big black grape skin nose, with softer dark plum and black cherry notes, light spices.  It’s clean, fresh-fruited and really subdued.  Needs some time.

Chateau Sixtine Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  40% Grenache, 35% Mourvedre, and 25% Syrah.  Black cherries, dark plums, bacon fat, leather, tobacco, earthen spices, mineral and black and pink peppercorns.  Youthful, showing loads of promise.

Mas de Boislauzon Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Tradition” Rouge 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  75% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah – Black cherries, mountain berries, cocoa, cloves, pork fat, white pepper, this is a medium-to-full-bodied marvel, young yet demonstrating complexity already.  Should be amazing once bottled and settled.

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