Tag Archives: Hosemaster of Wine

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2013-11-19 16.14.29

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I’ve been out of commission for the past week or so.  Getting down with the sickness is not an enjoyable pursuit, believe me.  Everybody gets sick this time of year, like we wade through a kiddie-pool petri dish of germs, splashing each other with the microbial putrescence until there is no one uninfected.  It’s the very reason I feel like The Walking Dead will be a reality one day; everyone just keeps on passing the yuck around.

Anyway, I feel a bit uninspired these days; my blog subjects consist primarily of the end of the year silliness to be had around the store, maybe a few funny customer interaction stories, and perhaps the cleaning up of samples around “La Chambre du Deuce.”

There is no vacationing this time of year, to be sure.  No jetting off to Australia or Spain.  No gallivanting to Napa Valley or wandering off to Virginia wine country.  Just the repetitious yet enjoyable slinging of grape juice to the masses here at TPS.

Scouring the Interwebs for inspiration, I am glad to see Katie Pazutto back at Gonzo Gastronomy.  And of course, my usual perusements – Samantha Sans Dosage, Hosemaster of Wine, Steve Heimoff and On the Wine Trail in Italy – are all great as always.  Yet maybe I should be looking elsewhere for inspiration.  Maybe I should rely solely on my inner weirdo to spew for the nonsense I know only those crazy enough to sift through this stuff is reading this stuff.

One of the things I try to avoid is posting about Thanksgiving.  Everybody does it, except me.  Kinda like sex.  (Hey, I can say that, I am married, though I might be in the doghouse again anyway.)  I am quite thankful for a lot of things – my wife, my home, my job, my family, friends, and Life in general.  Yet the Internet fills up with all of that and it comes across just a huge cacophonous buzzing noise in the ethers.  I guess it’s a whole lot better than Twitter, which is just a bunch of bitter, whiny bitches bickering back and forth – WTF happened to that social media platform anyway?  I was coerced into Twitter years ago by good friends @shels and @Architek1, and now, aside from updating the Twitterverse on my latest blog posts, I haven’t much to say (for fear somebody is going to call me a douchenozzle or something).

In catching up from the sick leave, Martin & Co. wineslinger Carl “The Beast” Best dropped by recently with three incredible Italians:

Talamonti Moda DOC 2011.  Grade=Very Good.  A remarkable value Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, soft-fruited with splashy blue fruit, slight baking spice, mineral and smoke.

Duca di Saragnano Chianti DOCG 2010.  Grade=Very Good.  Old-school Sangiovese, with cedar spice, sour cherry, rosemary and green olive notes, this is a great, well-balanced red.

Talamonti Kudos Colline Pescaresi Rosso IGT 2007.  Grade=Outstanding.  70% Montepulciano and 30% Merlot combine to give you a lush, dense and thoroughly complex red, smoky with dark mocha, black cherry and dried herbs.

The plan for the coming year, in transitioning into a more involved buyer at the store, is to travel a bit more, spend a bit more time visiting local wineries, and get back into the whole wine-is-a-social-medium thing.  Big plans for 2014.  Just nothing absolutely concrete yet.

In the meantime, inspiration is out there.  Waiting.  Patiently.  For me to turn the corner, then push me down and give me a wedgie.

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So the nominees for the 2013 Wine Blog Awards have been announced, and Surprise!  I have once again been slighted.  Yeah, I know, you are just as blown away as I am.  I mean, who can forget all of the wines I reviewed holding up Robert Parker’s picture with one hand, eh?  Or the dozens of unrequited love letters to James Laube?

Anyway, the biggest congrats goes to the ultimate poodle wacker, Hosemaster of Wine, for 5 nominations this year.  And to the host of great writers who were nominated as well, including Joe Roberts (of 1 Wine Dude), Alfonso Cevola (of On the Wine Trail in Italy), Tom Wark (from Fermentation), Sean Sullivan (of Washington Wine Report) and Wine Enthusiast’s Steve Heimoff, congratulations all!

You’d think that after 5 years of doing this, there might be some recognition, but hell, I am just happy that somebody, hell anybody for that matter, is reading my incessant rants and raves.  As I have said a million times before, I do this for me, as a way to keep track of everything I taste, and a way for me to chronicle what goes on in my professional and sometimes, personal life.  Yet I would be lying if I wasn’t a bit disappointed not to be nominated.  I am certain most bloggers in the wine world would agree.  But hey, you’re reading at least, right?  You’ve taken the time to read the often droll, sometimes insightful, yet most often weird syntax my besotted mind hacks up here in cyberspace.  For that, I am truly thankful.  It might even warrant a hug and a kiss if we ever actually meet.

And in another clunky segue, The David Show and new Cline guy Rob Hawk (sounds like an action hero) dropped in with a bagful of awesome.  Cline Cellars, at least for me, is one of the best value brands out there, with pretty much every wine kicking ass and taking names.

Cline Mourvedre Rosé Contra Costa County 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  A pretty, fruit-driven saigneé, this dry pink wine is light, fruity, with hints of cranberry, red currant and crushed red flowers.  A standout value!

Cline Eighty Two Red California 2010.  Grade=Very Good.  Medium-bodied red, with plush red and blue fruit flavors.  A blend predominantly of Zinfandel and Syrah.

Cline Mourvedre Small Berry 2010.  Grade=Amazing.  This gorgeous, medium-to-full-bodied wine goes down in the books as one of the sexiest California reds we’ve ever tasted.  Just super-sexy blue fruit, spices, exotic flowers and dried herbs.

Cline Zinfandel Ancient Vines 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.  A knockout value!  Medium-bodied, bramble-fruited red with notes of cocoa, boysenberry, cinnamon and black pepper.

Cline Zinfandel Live Oak 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.  A beautifully-crafted single-vineyard Zin, made from the youngest old vines Cline has.  Full-bodied, voluptuous dark fruits with elegance and grace on its long-lingering finish.

Cline Zinfandel Big Break 2010.  Grade=Outstanding+.  Bold, dynamic red, more muscular than its Live Oak sibling, this brooding Zin gives you blackberry, blueberry and huckleberry fruit notes, vanilla, cinnamon and cardamom undertones, and finishing up with a bit of crème de cacao.

It’s funny what actually goes through my mind when tasting.  While I am listening to Rob’s presentation, my Adult ADD runs the gamut of thoughts and worries… my wife, how I am going to write this post, what is my next task at work?  There are movie scenes and magazines, beauty queens and Ovaltine® – gotta keep it rhymin’ right?   I realize that sometimes, if I were to write my thoughts verbatim, it would be like listening to Miles Davis, John Denver, Wu-Tang Clan and Slayer at the same time.  And the capitol of Nebraska is Lincoln.

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Recently, there has been a lot of things Italian on my mind.  A little Milan AC, some Dante, my friend and Vias Imports’ rep Rudy Basile’s recent visit to TPS, and wine blogging comrade Alfonso Cevola’s recent blog post.  Last Friday, Alfonso, who masterfully waxes about all wines Italian at On the Wine Trail in Italy, uttered the fear all us wine bloggers fear – that nobody gives a shit.

I would argue to say that 99.9% of us wine bloggers do this for the love of it, counting our peers and wine industry brethren as our readers (if we are lucky), and staring at the ghost towns of comment sections daily.

Alfonso’s article spoke of fellow wine blogger Ron Washam (the Hosemaster of Wine) recounted surveying around 200 visitors to the tasting room he works, “how many of them read wine blogs?”  The answer, “zero.”  Zero, zip, nada, nyet, goose egg, the Big Nothing.

In seeing this, I am wondering more now than ever, “what the f@%& am I doing?”  I mean, I have said it countless times that I do this for my own benefit, keeping an online diary of all the wines I taste and everything that happens on the job, my job as a retail wine buyer.  Yet I hope that there are folks out there that actually read my drivel and get something from it.

It is the same as if it were one’s real job, the need to feel as though you’ve accomplished something, and that what you do has meaning, to yourself, your colleagues, your customers, your company… you want to have some relevance in this world, it’s a basic human need.

Meanwhile, good friend Rudy Basile dropped in to taste some wines and grappas with The Colonel, Irish T and myself:

Le Dolci Colline Brut Prosecco DOC NV.  Grade=Outstanding.  While I am getting a bit bored with Prosecco, the fact is this is pretty good.  Green apple skin and lime mousse, crisp acidity, and a clean finish make for a very good value.

Lechthaler Riesling Trentino DOP 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.  Showing more in common with Alsatian Riesling, this drier styled white displays clean stone fruit, a touch of white flower, mint and crushed stones.

Terredora di Paolo Rosaenovae Irpinia DOC 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  Whaddya know?  My first Aglianico rosé.  Gorgeous notes of red plum, Bing cherry, peach and strawberry abound here, mingling with pretty hints of sweet mint and mineral.

Lechthaler Pinot Noir Trentino DOP 2010.  Grade=Outstanding.  Light, soft red with cherries and raspberries, touches of dusty earth, sweet spices and smoky herbs.

Lechthaler Teroldego Rotaliano DOP 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.  Trentino’s signature red grape, Teroldego, is center stage with its black cherry, tobacco, cedar, earth and dark spice notes.  Medium-bodied, bold and well-balanced.

Cataldi Madonna Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2010.  Grade=Outstanding+.  The Cadillac of Montepulciano, Cataldi Madonna scores again with its full-bodied presence of dark red fruits, spices and walnuts.

Produttori del Barbaresco Nebbiolo Langhe DOC 2010.  Grade=Outstanding+.  Bold, intense red, full-bodied with spicy tannins, smoky black fruit, black peppercorns, anise and cedar smoke.

Distelleria G. Bertagnolli Honey Flavored Grappa Trentino.  Grade=Outstanding.  Grappa always makes me queasy, but here you have a very approachable distillate, clean, with fleshy stone fruit and of course, the honey.  Very nice.

Distelleria G. Bertagnolli Mirtillo Grappa Trentino.  Grade=Outstanding.  Mirtillo means Blueberry.  Ah, so that’s why I feel like I am drinking my Grandmother’s homemade blueberry pie, fermented and distilled into a smooth, supple distillate.  I could get really wasted on this stuff.

One of the things I learned from Rudy was that coming soon, the D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) – a term we wine geeks have had engrained into our brains – will change to D.O.P., which stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, a classification used to define produce.  Wine is a grape, right?  Thank you E.U.

But getting back to the writing for a close circle of like-minded wine geeks, I guess it takes that transcendental someone to create a blog that is more universal, something akin to what Samantha Dugan at Samantha Sans Dosage is doing (she has got to be getting tired of my brown nosing by now).  Becoming less about wine and more about life, she has begun transforming herself into something more relevant to everyday living.

I get that the biggest issue with wine’s image is the exact thing being perpetuated by many wine bloggers, the issue being “elitism.”  Our beer guy here at TPS, Danny Gold, once said, “There are beer geeks and wine snobs.”  He’s not entirely right, but he’s pretty damn close.   It is so easy to fall in love with wine, yet because of its infinitely more diverse base of information – the varietals, the wine producing regions, vintages, etc. – the personae of wine gives the appearance of being out of the reaches of the average consumer.  Beer, not so much.  Anyone can appreciate beer, even if there is a growing multitude of choice amongst craft brewers and imports.

Wine bloggers can tend to add to the element of elitism by the unintentional level of condescendence inferred, whether you are talking about a wine pairing with a 20 course dinner, visiting the wineries of Uruguay or Croatia, or hanging in the cellar of Chateau Ausone and enjoying a 12 year vertical.  I would be all over any and all of those topics, felling a forest to scribble down notes and burning up cameras taking massive amounts of digital pictures.  Believe me.

But it would be easy to see that the average person may see these as pompous, and even worse, irrelevant to their lives and their sources of enjoyment.

Yet I also see the absolute relevance of what we do, what we discuss, what we chronicle.  It is at the very heart of the thrill of experience that we do what we do, and the incessant need to share those experiences with the world, however we can.  Absolutely, not everyone can experience what I experience at my job every day.  My travels, my experiences – the things I learn on the job and on the road – I write them down and chronicle them so I can share my excitement with my staff, my customers, my readers – it’s why I do what I do.

In the end, I like being a wine blogger.  For better or worse, for one reader or a million, the idea of sharing my experiences is not elitism, it isn’t condescending.  It’s simply in keeping with the concepts of the human condition.

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The world around us, in all its microcosmic and macrocosmic glory, ebbs and flows circumspectively, yet every so often, you can still be surprised.  Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow this year, but New England would never have known that after this past weekend’s blizzard.  And who really saw Pope Benedict’s resignation coming.  Last time a Pope called it quits was what, in the 1400s?

But for every surprise, there is another day of partisan bullshit in D.C., and North Korea is nuclear testing again.

Really it’s business as usual here on planet earth.

Here at the Party Source, it seems like the January doldrums have been shaken off and we are eagerly anticipating our expansion, and in the wine department, we’ve been sprucing up several categories that have been a bit unsung as of late (Argentina, Chile, Spain, Australia).  A very exciting time if you are a wine geek like myself.

Wine Reviewed: 18 + 40 blind at the wine festival judging.

Wine of the Weeks: Flora Springs Trilogy 2008.

Good news in the wine biz: Good news for South African wines.  Also, for Washington State wines.

Bad news in the wine bizDepending on your point of view

Disturbing news in the wine biz: Don’t call it a cult Cab

On the homefront: My wife has been having a tough go of it this past week.  She has a condition called eosinophilic esophagitis which is sort of like acid reflux to the nth degree.  It is one of a laundry list of conditions from which she suffers, and as a husband, I want to do something for her to help make her feel better.  Yet there are times when all you can really do is let her know you are there, try your best to comfort her, and pray.

As someone who isn’t all that religious, prayer is a strange bedfellow.  You feel somewhat awkward talking to God as if you are trying to ask the prettiest girl you knew back in high school to prom, knowing she dates the starting quarterback – you sense the impending rejection.  Maybe it isn’t suppose to feel like that, but I find it that way pretty much every time.

Looking at things from a glass-half-full perspective, I guess I could say life really is an unexpected journey.

What is on my playlist?: Bob Marley, David Bowie (when am I not listening to Bowie), Badfinger, ELO

What wine(s) is (are) impressing me right now at the store?: Breca Garnacha 2010, Elk Cove Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2010, Foris Pinot Gris Rogue Valley 2010.

Recommended reads, blog or otherwise:  Samantha Sans Dosage and Hosemaster of Wine.

What’s on tap for this week?:  Some Frenchies, Pinot Noirs from Row 11, the wines of Evening Land, Kuleto, Raymond, and an odd assortment of many others.

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Dog Sled Ride

So here we are, in 2013.  Surviving another end of the world scare (if you could call it that), we’ve transitioned into a new Year, rife with new beginnings (or more of the same ol’ same ol’ if you are one of my more conservative friends, I guess).  As many of you who follow along already know, I am still getting comfortable in my new gig, happy as Hell to have found a solid place to land here at The Party Source, and am humble and appreciative to be working with one of the best in the business, Ms. Mary Valle-Dorr, who prior to the past six months, had been my biggest nemesis.

Fast forward to now, and I feel like a lot of the crap I was feeling about the old gig is pretty much gone; I have bigger fish to fry as the adage goes.

So my goals this year have certainly shifted, and despite having to sort of reinvent myself professionally, I have rededicated myself to the business of wine.  I want to learn how to deliver the goods much better now that I am here at TPS, figuring out ways to better reach our customers, better inform our customers, and better serve our customers.  Learning how to more effectively utilize the tools we currently have at our disposal, such as email, Facebook, Twitter and the like.  Of course, the big plan is to kick off Party Source Web TV, a video show that features all of our departments, and all of our staff, doing what they do best – serving our customers and talking about what they love most – the art AND science of entertaining.

Pretty lofty stuff, right?

I feel pretty fortunate to have ended up here at TPS.  I was looking at a lot of other options.  Most of them involved relocating to other parts of the country.  I had sent resumés to places in Washington State, Indiana, Texas and New York.  I was thinking about opening my own distributorship.  I had even entertained the idea of getting back into the restaurant biz (that’s how desperate I was to change things up).  In the end, I wound up here at TPS, which I feel now was where I was headed all along.

Wine Reviewed: 23 (29 if you count those three I reviewed thrice each)

Wine of the Weeks: Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon Stylus 2005.

Good news in the wine biz: Anything Hosemaster posted… (as always).  Charles Smith gets bigger.

Bad news in the wine biz:  Yellow Tail is having money woes.

Disturbing news in the wine biz: Not sure if this is good or bad – Guy Fieri is getting into the wine biz.

On the homefront: Wife ended up with another concussion.  I swear the good Lord must’ve made her skull out of metal, because the Wifey Concussion count is up to 13.  We were supposed to attend the wedding of a friend this weekend, but she hadn’t been feeling well and in her rushing around, must’ve blacked out and fell backwards, hitting her head pretty hard again.

There is nothing worse than coming home to find your wife lying on her back, completely unresponsive.  She has given me many close calls over the years.  I think that’s why my beard is graying.  It’s been a rough several months at home, with her sick, and the house seemingly breaking down little by little.  It’s not that I am crying about it – I mean, this morning I was listening to the radio, and the commentator was discussing a Chinese woman who survived the Chinese Cultural Revolution, forced to eat what amounted to shit sandwiches while interned in a re-education camp until she was exiled to America, and though penniless and uneducated, has become a successful tech purveyor, all through sheer will and determination.  She had it rough.  Stripped of everything, and yet she still succeeded.  I am thankful for what I have, believe me.  I’ve hit a rough patch is all.  We all do from time to time.  If every day in life was a cake walk, we’d all be billionaires.  It’s the rough times that make us stronger.  And it’s surviving those times that make us better.

What is on my playlist?: the new David Bowie and the new Alice in Chains.

What wine(s) is (are) impressing me right now at the store?: Pehu-Simonet Brut NV, K Vintners Viognier 2011, and Dunham Syrah 2009.

Recommended reads, blog or otherwise:  Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume One.

What’s on tap for this week?:  Those damn Ramon Bilbao wines I keep forgetting about, a mélange of languishing sample bottles from the Studio, a bit of Australia perhaps, and reconnecting from old friends and colleagues.





2013, and welcome to it.  I feel as if someone just lifted the Empire State Building off my shoulders as I leave last year in the rear view mirror.  It was a pretty tumultuous year for me, 2012, professionally and personally, as my last job exploded into stardust, nearly wrecking my marriage and health to boot.

But that was then and this is now.

I landed on my feet, running at full sprint into the operation here at The Party Source in Bellevue, KY, and partnered with long-time nemesis Mary Valle-Dorr to begin creating the Best F-in’ Wine Dept. in the Midwest (perhaps even the world!).  It has been a remarkably smooth and mutually respectable transition, and it’s becoming harder to remember what kind of dystopian work environment I was in prior to TPS.

This year, while I listen to all of the varying levels of New Year’s Resolutions being bandied about in conversation, on social media, and everywhere else, I struggle with the concept of making resolutions this year.  My goals are simply to be more focused, more conscientious and more cognizant of my life and the decisions I make, including how I am toward my wife, my family, my coworkers and my friends, and to simply be the best I can be professionally and personally.  A lot of baggage has been discarded, and I no longer have this veritable albatross of dysfunctionalism hanging around my neck anymore and have aimed my sights pretty high in my current position.

In the meantime, the landscape has changed somewhat, as it always does in this business.  Robert Parker, while moving toward the background of his magazine’s operations with the recent selling of a majority share to outside investors, continues to show no love for the incommodious wine bloggers (except for my fellow ne’er-do-wells Joe Roberts (at 1 Wine Dude) and the luminary Hosemaster of Wine himself, Ron Washam).  I’d take offense at being so reviled if I felt I was anything more than an average wine geek who simply chronicles his job with a bit of sardonic wit and drunken wisdom.  Besides, the Internet is a pretty big place and there is enough room for everybody (except maybe Dr. Jay Miller).

Amidst the chaos that was the Christmas season, two things happened that I wasn’t able to note while on hiatus.  First, dear friend and RNDC wine queen Janis Hunt retired.  I had the privilege of working with her for the past 10 years through my last and current jobs.  She was Brother Lou’s boss during that time.  A true pioneer here in Kentucky she was the first woman to crack the “boys club” of the Kentucky Beverage business, and paved the way for women like my boss, Mary, and such amazing people like Jen Thieman, Candy Ludwig, Christine Ahearn, Linda Hazelbaker, Jesse Stambaugh and all the great women with which I get to work in this business here in Kentucky.  She has been a trailblazer, an inspiration, and proof that a woman can get the job done (usually better than us guys can).  You will be missed – a lot!

Second, and most unfortunately, we lost a phenomenal individual in Pete Augsburger.  I met Pete while taking the reins as wine buyer for the now-defunct Chateau Pomije Wine Store in Cincinnati, OH.  Pete was a towering man, 6 feet plus, and had this booming voice.  He was the nicest guy, and had a really striking presence.  I would come to learn that he was a competing senior Olympian – a shot putter no less – and that he had played college football for the University of Maryland (he played in 3 bowl games, and I believe he still holds 2 collegiate records).  I was able to steal Pete from Pomije and lured him over to Liquor Direct.  I always thought that if I could be in that great of shape past the age of 65, that would be awesome, because he was in FAR better shape physically and mentally than I have ever been (and I’m 46 now).  He passed suddenly, working out at the Cincinnati Sports Club, at the young age of 82.  He was often called the Gentle Giant, and was truly a profoundly inspiration to all who knew him.

As for 2013 and what the future holds, I guess that is entirely up to the Big Man upstairs.  Yet my plans for UTGT at least are modest ones.  I plan on showing greater support for and coverage of the local wine scene, featuring interviews with local wine makers and video visits to their wineries and vineyards, along with continued note-postings of all the wines I come across now as part of the Party Source’s wine staff.  I will hopefully be travelling a bit more, studying for my CWE again, and providing my continued nonsensical viewpoint on the retail wine business, pop culture, and whatever else rubs me the wrong way.




I have always wanted to do this…

I’ve been in this business a long time, though relatively speaking, I feel I still have a long way to go in gathering experience.  I have read other bloggers’ interview pieces and have done a few of my own, though I never aimed to get too far into that aspect of writing – though I am not sure why.  I have been curious in this little indulgence/exercise and how I could use it to a) improve my writing skills (I use that term loosely), b) exercise a bit of indulgence, and c) use this as yet another opportunity for self-deprecation.

ME:  Where did you grow up?

MYSELF:  In and around Dayton, Ohio, the Gem City.  Not much of a gem these days, but home nonetheless.

ME:  How did your childhood influence your present career path?

MYSELF:  I grew up in the suburbs, and the house we lived had all kinds of fruit trees and bushes around, including a big, fat grape vine that was in our backyard.  I called it a tree because it’s rootstock was as thick as the trunk of a tall tree, but climbing it took you maybe 4 feet off the ground.  Its low-hanging fruit provided my sister and I with quick snacks and its unkempt vines provided a kind of clubhouse for us to hang out in.  Ultimately, I eulogized those memories in a poem, and the title of that tome ended up the name of my blog. 

My paternal grandfather also did a lot of home brewing and home winemaking.  Some of the crappiest stuff you could ever drink.  Unsterilized bottles and cheap yeast gave way to beers that looked and tasted like it was made with soggy croutons and wines that tasted like grape jelly that had been left out in the sun inside dirty underwear.

ME:  How did you come to the wine business?

MYSELF:  I backed into it really.  After having worked in restaurants for years, I went to work at a friend’s wine shop, disgruntled and disillusioned by my last restaurant gig, and the rest is history.  There, I found a huge passion for Italian wine and the journey had finally begun.

ME:  What was the “a-ha”moment that drew you into the wine business for good?

MYSELF:  There was really never one definitive moment, just a lot of little ones.  The one that really stands out for me though involved two bottles of St. Clement Oroppas and my at-the-time soon-to-be-future Mrs. Keith (my wife Jenifer).  12 years later both love affairs are still going strong.  Wine always had a tendency to get me into trouble.  From getting shitfaced drunk on wine coolers (7 in less than 30 minutes, you could say I had alcohol poisoning) and getting kicked out of the Greene County Fair for storming an all-night swim trying to find a bathroom, to having a girlfriend get me snowed on boxed Burgundy and professing my undying love for her after only knowing her a few days, wine always put me in the mood.

These days, I liken a lot of wines to some of the more “randy” moments in my life, particularly those with the current Mrs. Deuce – although I’ve been known to conjure up thoughts of Christina Hendricks, Sofia Vergara and Virginia Madsen – hubba hubba.

ME:  How much travelling have you done with regards to wine?

MYSELF:  Not a lot.  I have an issue with relaxing – I can’t.  I have this gnawing fear that if I take a vacation and enjoy myself, when I get back to work, I get fired.  In recent years, I’ve been to Washington State twice and Oregon once.  I turned down a trip to Spain this year and I am still regretting that one. 

However, back in my twenties, I did a lot of a much different kind of travelling, one involving a more pharmacologically enhanced existential journey… Timothy Leary can suck it.

ME:  Who are your biggest influences in your job?  In writing?

MYSELF:  I draw inspiration from some of my peers, like the late Doug Simon from Dayton, Ohio’s Arrow Wine & Spirits, Mary Kay from Yellow Springs’ restaurant, The Winds, Wine Advocate writer and one of the most impressive minds (and palates) in the business, David Schildknecht, my brother from another mother/blues guitarist extraordinaire/super-cool wine geek Eric Jerardi, writers Kevin Zraly, Jaime Goode and Karen MacNeil… plus people like Zane Lamprey, host of the best drinking show of all time, Three Sheets, musicians, authors, movies.  The poets have tended to influence me greatly on how I write about wine – Pablo Neruda, Charles Bukowski, Audre Lorde, Dorothy Parker, Octavio Paz, Sceaming Jay Hawkins – it’s always been more about the art than the science.

I sometimes feel like a sponge, soaking up everything around me, but a lot of my wayward, miscreant life creeps into what I write and how I see wine.  It’s like the joke, a comic, a porn director and a wine critic walk into a bar…

ME:  What do you think about how your past jobs have ultimately impacted your current position?

MYSELF:  I worked at a trucking company as a loadmaster.  Not many folks in my line of work can put that one on a resume.  And I apprenticed as a sushi chef, who was Sicilian.  Lots of odd jobs, my favorite of which was working on set deconstruction for a G-rated movie down in Myrtle Beach.  Two serious accidents on site sent me out of there after lunch.

ME:  How many other bloggers influence your work?

MYSELF:  Many.  Ron Washam (the Hosemaster of Wine) is like the Don Rickles of blogging satire.  Nothing is sacred, he mocks everybody – though I sometimes get bummed I’ve never been lampooned.  I must not be brown nosing enough to get a dig.  Samantha Dugan (of Samantha Sans Dosage) gets to the personal side of wine in such a way that no one else does.  It’s touching, it’s endearing, it’s poignant, it’s funny.  She’s transcendental.  Alfonso Cevola and Jeremy Parzen (of On the Wine Trail in Italy and Do Bianchi respectively) are great at covering the Italian beat.  Hardy Wallace is just balls-out crazy.  And there are folks like Paul Gregutt and Steve Heimoff (both of Wine Enthusiast) that give you a legit writer’s insight.  I read a lot of blogs and am influenced by many of them.  I am not really one of the upper echelons, yet I have been at this for a while, kind of like a horse fly in a barn full of horses.   I am really just a bit of a nuisance, a veritable Cthulu of the blogosphere.

ME:  What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine biz?

MYSELF:  I would be an overweight, balding lead singer of a crappy Black Sabbath cover band.  A crash test dummy.  Or a heretic.

ME:  When you aren’t tasting wine, what is going on in your world?

MYSELF:  Annoying my wife, herding cats, indulging in watching a lot of movies, and searching in vain for the meaning of life and the world’s greatest cheesecake.

ME:  If there was one phrase you could coin that would be remembered and quoted often, what would you want it to be?

MYSELF:  Bristling with sarcasm, I would say, “Hey [insert name here], you’re doin’ a helluva job.”  And then I would finish with the expletive, “Balls!”

But seriously, I would say that “Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.”  A philosophical tidbit from one of the most misunderstood antagonists in modern television comedy, Major Frank Burns from M*A*S*H.  (And I’d follow it with, “Balls!”)



Week three of our weekly recap finds me sort-of-up-and-down-and-all-around mentally.  Mother Nature seemed to finally return to her good senses, much to the Deuce’s chagrin, as winter reared its ugly head and turned everything colder than an Antarctican lemonade stand.

Wine Reviewed: 45 + 4 ciders.

Wine of the Week: Soter Vineyards Pinot Noir Mineral Springs 2008. The Wonder Twins really took home the prize this week with this one.

Good news in the wine biz: Wine blogging brother Joe Roberts – aka 1 Wine Dude – landed the gig of a lifetime, as the new wine scribe for Playboy.com.  Congrats and behave.

Disturbing news in the wine biz: Reading Harvey Steiman’s recent blog post on sweet wines was a bit funny to me; a kind of stating the obvious if you ask me.  Seems America has a sweet tooth, and the wines have certainly been made to match.  Harvey’s commentary seems ironic, given the point spread lavished upon the Cabs and reds that drink more like port than their respective varietals.

The Who-Gives-A-Shit news in the wine biz: Harvey Steiman’s blog post on sweet reds and Moscatos is a bit like yelling “Tornado” a week after a town, already flattened by a tornado, is beginning the clean-up.  I’ve been so inundated with Moscatos and Sweet Reds, I swear if I see one more of either, the sales rep that brings it to me is gonna have to present the wine to my customers and staff in their Birthday suit, wearing only a clown nose and purple galoshes.

On the homefront: Fairly crappy in that Wifey and I (moreso her than I) were dealing with some stomach flu and sinus issues.  We managed to catch the new TV show “The River” which is really cool and pretty spooky.  Like most TV shows I get into however, it will most likely be cancelled next week.

What is on my playlist?: new Nada Surf, Bon Iver, and some classic April Wine.

What wine(s) is (are) impressing me right now at the store?: Alto Moncayo 2009.

Recommended reads, blog or otherwise:  Do Bianchi’s Jeremy Parzen has some insightful stuff about the DOC and DOCG appellations of Italy.  And the Hosemaster of Wine is back, writing a steady stream of wine satire.

What’s on tap for this week?: The Barkan and Crusher reviews I didn’t get to last week, CIWF judging, musing on Oregon, and the study machine starts up again as I prep for another try at the CWE.


recap wine reviews


In a new weekly segment, I would like to recap the past week, not just with the wines I have reviewed, but a little bit of everything going on here with the Deuce.  Everything can be a bit of a whirlwind in this business so it’s good to take a few minutes to reassess what the hell just happened.

Wine Reviewed:  51

Wine of the WeekJorge Ordóñez #4 Essencia 2004.  Inventing a whole new rating for one intergalactically fantastic wine, all others paled in comparison, though there were plenty that were pretty awesome just the same.

Good news in the wine biz:  My hero, wine satirist and all-American wisenheimer Ron Washam, aka the Hosemaster of Wine, has been cranking out a steady stream of wine wit lately on his blog, after last year, packing it in.  Glad to see he couldn’t stay away for too long.  Guess us “poodles” are still too damny amusing.  Also, my wine brothers from other mothers, Master Somms Ian Cauble and D’Lynn Proctor are featured in a documentary about taking the final level of the MS exam aptly entitled Somm.

You can catch the trailer here.

Disturbing news in the wine biz:  Another one of my wine writing heroes, the Italian wine guru Alfonso Cevola posted about old friend and MS Devon Broglie, Chief Wine Buyer for Whole Foods, posting a picture of Devon along with a picture, circa mid-70’s, of Burt Reynolds’ infamous Playgirl Centerfold spread (uh-hum).  Next time I see Devon, I am sure I will subconsciously blurt out, “how’s it hangin’?”

The Who-Gives-A-Shit news in the wine biz:  Wine scores.  Talk about beating a dead horse… more defending and dismissing of the 100-point scale from all sides, including Charlie Olken at Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wine, Steve Heimoff at Wine Enthusiast, and many, many more.  It is the subject that will not die.  And though I disagree with it, the argument has lost all allure for me.  Until someone comes up with something better, it’s the best we have.

On the homefront:  It will always be a day-by-day thing for my wife and I.  She has been contending with a lot of severe pain issues for some time.  Her doctor believes her to have severe arthritis in her spine.  I am more and more, wanting to see medical marijuana legalized, legitimized and wholeheartedly endorsed by all sides as a way to bring relief to millions suffering from chronic illnesses.  I would give anything just for my wife to have a pain-free day.

What is on my playlist?:  David Bowie, Let’s Dance; Queen, Sheer Heart Attack; Ryan Adams, Ashes & Fire.

What wine(s) is (are) impressing me right now at the store?:  Seven Hills Riesling Columbia Valley 2010, Viticcio Bere 2009, and Chapoutier Luberon La Ciboise Rouge 2009.

Recommended reads, blog or otherwise:  Always check out Samantha Sans Dosage, with wine buyer Samantha Dugan transcending the simple wine jargon with her own personal points of view, passionate reflections, and no bullshit storytelling.  I am rereading Natalie MacLean’s Unquenchable, which is a great book about wine from the perspective of an everywoman – it’s funny stuff.  And I am loving my Christmas present, Nadia G’s Cooking for Trouble cookbook.  She’s awesome!

What’s on tap for this week?:  More action in the whino’s studio as always, a preliminary plan for Grape Tree swag, and of course, the impending breakdown that has yet to happen.  I honestly have no idea.  Each week it is a new adventure in misadventure.

commentary Uncategorized


Wine Enthusiast’s Steve Heimoff is barking about the 100 point scale again, because many of us poodles* out there are yiping again about it.  I concede I signed onto the ScoRevolution online group a few months back, but I have to say the whole discussion is as old as old can be.  Please everybody, shut the fuck up about it already.  Let it go.  Move on, find something else to write about, for the love of all that’s holy (or unholy, whatever the case may be).

(*- poodles is a “loving and affectionate” term used by Ron Washam, aka the Hosemaster of Wine, to identify wine bloggers.)

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