A Tasting Experience at the Intersection of Wine & Art

Creativity Explored - where art changes livesWhat are you doing here?!  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate you reading my blog, it’s just that I’m going to ask you to do something more.  

Because reading about wine is all well and good, it is a fascinating topic and all, but it’s sort of like reading about sex – eventually, it’s best to set aside the academic study and experience the subject live and in person.  Which is what we’re doing every time we separate the cork from its bottle, and especially so at an organized tasting where wine becomes the center of focus, where it’s elevated beyond a pleasant background accompaniment to good company, good food or the (sadly) the T.V.

And on Thursday,  January 29th, we’re turning the usual tasting format on its head with wine inspired by art. It’s a whole different approach to tasting!

It’s not uncommon for an artist to be inspired by wine, of course.  That’s been common for centuries.  But wine inspired by art?  Come experience it with us – you’ll taste wine, and view the art that inspired it, with fresh and enlivened senses. We’ve paired artisanal wines with six different works of art by some of the developmentally handicapped artists working through the venerable Creativity Explored in San Francisco’s hip Mission District.  This worthy organization provides studio space and gallery/marketing support for dozens of such artists, some of which are able to support themselves from their proceeds.  Tickets are just $20 (available here).  Here’s a sneak peak at two of our pairings:

Biggy Cats... by Christina Marie Fong

Biggy Cats… by Christina Marie Fong inspired a pairing with Bonny Doon Vineyard’s Le Cigare Blanc. Come learn more about this fascinating match!

"Big Tree" by Jason Monzon

“Big Tree”, by Jason Monzon, inspired a pairing with the wines of Mendocino producer Seebass. Come learn how the art inspired our choice!

I hope you can join us. Because as much fun as it is to read about wine, it is far more enjoyable to taste it!  So stop reading and hie thee to the shopping cart – Tickets are a very reasonable $20 per person ($38 for two)Click to Buy Tickets

 

Happy MerchantCheers!

Dave the Wine Merchant

“Wings Get Stuck In Your Teeth!” & Other Perils of Pairing Wine & Bugs

I didn’t intend to read it.  I had lots to do when I saw the article come across my news feed.  But there’s something about the idea of eating bugs that makes it difficult to look away.  Even more so when you combine them with wine.

Which is what the UK reporter Adam Lechmere did, with the help of the buyer for UK’s large wine retailer Laithwaites, Beth Willard.  Beth helped Adam pair wines with Cricket Pad Thai, Mealworm Tacos, Grasshoppers on Toast and Frangipane of Pear, Cinnamon and Queen Weaver Ants.

Fair warning – the images are a bit off-putting.  Despite their drought resistance, near zero CO2 footprint (relative to our preferred protein sources) and overall abundance, the little critters are so unappealing that I fear the food marketers, powerful as they are, may have many years of hard rock mining ahead before they can convince Western populations to include bugs in our diets.  With the possible exception of the painfully hip, of course, who will outrace each other to be at the tip of the next foodie trend.  They can take my baton and head to the front of the pack, with my blessing.

For more information on Adam’s investigative journalism, read the full story here or copy paste this – http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2015/01/matching-wine-with-bugs-yes-bugs. 

And, as we’re short of Laithwaites around these parts, I’m always pleased to help with your next wine selection, whether your tastes run toward the adventuresome or the more traditional.  Peruse and plunder my portfolio here.

Dave Chambers

Dave@DaveTheWineMerchant.com 

Book Reviews: “Proof” & “Dial M for Merlot”

I must be the most frustrating book reviewer in the world.  When I agree to review a book relevant to food and wine enthusiasts, the publicist sends me a promotional copy.  And then… they wait.  Sometimes for quite a while. Because I have two habits that virtually guarantee my review will miss the critical 6-8 week period following release:

  1. I read the entire book .  Most reviewers see this behavior as inefficient. Farcical, even. But a fair review requires an understanding of the book’s gestalt, not just a skim of a few pages.  Besides, if I struggle to finish the book in a timely manner it usually means other readers will too.
  2. I don’t enjoy publishing bad reviews.  I know how difficult it is to craft a compelling story and tell it in an engaging manner. But a desire to caution readers from investing time and money on a book they may not enjoy eventually means the review gets publish.

I apologize to the publicists for being so late to the party.

Dial M for Merlot, by Howard K

20141207_161416This is the first effort from author “Howard K”, who spins an interesting tale.  But sadly, that tale was told via the prose of a novice author employing metaphors so clumsy they were sometimes painful to read. In addition, Mr. K uses a rather liberal hand in sprinkling gratuitous sex throughout his story, with female characters that seem to have sprung from one of Ian Fleming’s old James Bond series – fun, pretty baubles to adorn a male protagonist.

And finally, Mr. K requires the reader to suspend belief and accept the absurdity that a virgin computer nerd / Star Trek enthusiast without any interest in fine wine or food, can transmogrify into an expert wine taster and womanizer within a few short months.

That said, by making his protagonist a wine novice, Howard K has a convenient reason for diving into some substantial details about wine, and doing so without ever making his story seem like a dry reference piece.  It is a great conceit for leading the general public to a greater appreciation of this ancient and noble beverage.  In addition, he has woven a story of intrigue, in fact one that I think could be easily adapted to the big screen.   The story line is engaging despite the author’s shortcomings as a writer, which improve over the course of the book.  Quite dramatically, in fact.  

Which gives me hope that Howard K’s next book will be even better.  

2.5 out of 5 stars.

Proof – The Science of Booze – Adam Rogers

20141207_161429

Rogers’s book is just the opposite.  An experience writer (for Wired Magazine), he sprinkles his dry humor throughout this dry subject, well researched and supported with a 19-page notes section.  A book about booze being dry?  Well, yes and no.  The subject is near and dear to the heart of any fan of wine/beer/cocktails, but READING about yeast/distillation/fermentation and hangovers is about as engaging as reading a manual on good sex.  It’s more enjoyable to put down the book and actually partake.

That said, those willing to read through the tough parts will find many valuable nuggets as they mine this book for fun and useful information. The well-researched chapters don’t really flow in a cohesive narrative, but that also makes them easy to serve as stand-alone topics.  I confess to not reading this book in sequence, as my interest in yeast or sugar are not as great as those of Aging, Smell & Taste, or Body & Brain, each of which I found to be useful chapters.  I’ve taken notes for future classes and presentation from each of these chapters.  Valuable nuggets abound for those willing to do a little hard rock mining.

All in all, this is a book for which any enthusiast of wine/beer/spirits will gladly make room on their bookshelf.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Cheers! Dave

Wine vs. Beer – the Definitive Infographic!

This week I was sent a link to a most useful infographic comparing America’s trends for wine consumption and beer consumption.  It makes for interesting reading…

Beer & Wine: Comparison Of Popular Brands, Surprising Facts And Market Trends
 

Brought to you by: http://comparecamp.com Author: David Adelman Subscribe to our: FriendFeed

Advice for Enjoying Edmunds St. John’s 2012 “Rocks & Gravel”

Edmunds St. Johns 2012 R&G Label

I opened this wine for last week’s customer tasting, and want to pass along what we found.  Just a couple of quick ideas can help you greatly increase the enjoyment of this profound wine.

The wine is aromatic and lively, even a bit frizzante at first.  The best glass of this wine I had all evening was actually the next morning, after the wine had been exposed to 12 hours worth of air.

To enjoy this wine to the fullest, break out your decanter (or any clean, wide-bottomed glass container), pop the cork and give this wine a good sloshing as you pour – this baby needs air – and some active swirling once decanted. If you can plan in advance, you’d be wise to decant two or three hours before pouring the first glass.

The Wine – A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (“GSM” 55/27/18%)  from Sonoma’s famed Unti Vineyard.  Give your glass a good swirl-n-sniff and you’ll get generous aromas of candied red fruits, sweet spices and dark fruits – blackberry and bitter cherries and delicious hints of sweet black licorice and cola. If you can find the willpower, this wine will reward a few years of quiet repose.  It is a baby right now.

For more info or to purchase, click here.

Cheers!

The “New” Ice Bucket Challenge?

I’ve watched with great interest the viral success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  Congrats to ALS for this most deserved windfall.

And now, I wonder “what’s next”?  Every non-profit in the country is studying this case to find ways to replicate it.  Well, I think can speak for all the Managers at all the Tasting Rooms for every winery when I say “I hope  the next big trend is NOT the Spit Bucket Challenge”.  So messy.

Is the "Spit Bucket Challenge" Next?

P.S.  October of 2014 marks the 10-yr anniversary of this movie.  You’d be amazed how many of my Millenial customers have no idea what it was.  It’s worth the $4-$5 you’ll spend on the DVD!

Guittard Chocolate & Wine – Specific Pairings Make the Difference!

The pairing of wine and chocolate is a media darling.  Like clock work, you can expect the tired topic to be rolled out before every Valentine’s day.  But few wines actually pair well with chocolate, truth be told.  And those that do, well, they tend to be wines that work best as cocktails.  Or shooters.  Ripe, fruit-driven, and big, big, big.

Which is why it was so refreshing to see this new take on pairing wine and chocolates, undertaken by the gourmet chocolate company, Guittard.  With San Francisco roots that go back to the gold rush, founder Etienne Guittard continued his family’s chocolate tradition right here in the Bay area.  And given our proximity to CA wine country, perhaps the only question is why it took Guittard so long to hit upon this brilliant idea!

I send hearty congratulations to our friends at Four Graces and Roederer, two of the four wines picked by the tasting panel Guittard put together, and wines that you’ll frequently find on my own list of favorites.

Read the full story here.

Cheers!  Dave “the Wine Merchant”

The ‘Mini-Mouth’ Robotic Wine Taster. Real News or Satire??

I think the folks over at The Onion got hold of today’s wine business news feed.   Those sneaky little devils.  The article that raised both my eyebrows was today’s report that nano-scientists have introduced a robotic wine taster of sorts.  We all know someone who works in nano-technology, right?  You probably go out of your way to invite them to every cocktail party for their amazing ability to make small talk (sorry).  I’m not convinced the young woman shown in the PR release is even a scientist – she’s far too cheerful.nanoscientist

Yeah, a group not known for their sense of humor, I’m guessing.  But these very same Nano-scientists announced their wine-tasting machine in today’s news –  here’s a link to the full article, which I’ll summarize below.

Now admittedly, wine critics don’t need to fear for their jobs just yet.  The new nano-sensor can only measure the level of tannin (astringency) in a wine.  But it can do so at any stage of the winemaking process, unlike their carbon-based counterparts (um, that’s you and me) who can sense this important element of red wines at the end of the process, when it’s too late to make natural adjustments (other than additives, shhhh).

For those who fear the machine’s eventual replacement of all things human, fret not.  Buried towards the end of the article is the good news that human saliva is still needed for the machine to accurately measure astringency.  Mini-mouth, you complete me.

New Union Wine Co. Ad Campaign Pokes Fun At Wine Snobs

Every once in a while, if you’re lucky, you get to see an ad campaign that changes your industry. You may have to set your way-back machine all the way back to the Bartles & James Wine Cooler era before you’ll see a series of ads to match the “Pinkies Down” series from Union Wine Company out of Oregon.

I find the ads to be hysterical, poking fun at the techniques and (often) pretense that a thorough knowledge of wine requires. After the various actor-snobs establish their unabashed and off-putting wine bonafides in four amusing scenarios, salvation is delivered in the form of the Union Wine Co product – wine in a can.

Kudos to the agency Story Manufacturing Company out of Portland. Even if you don’t have the time to watch all of them right now, do it anyway. Especially if you’re in the wine industry. Here’s the first one to get you started. Just look for the links to the remainder after this one finishes.

Wine Snob - Ad for Canned Wine

Cheers!  Dave the Wine Merchant

Take care: wines are getting stronger | Life and style | The Observer

Last weekend’s article from the Guardian’s ‘The Observer’ justifies a skim by any wine lover.  But before you click the link, my two cents…

First, please note the article’s premise – that the global average alcohol in wine has increased by 2% over 20 years – is greatly misleading.  It refers to an increase in average alcohol from, say, 12.5% in 1994 to 14.5% in 2014 (a 16% increase), not merely a 2% increase OF the base rate (or in this example, 12.5% x 1.02 = a more modest 12.8%). [Disclaimer, my numbers are for example only, yet are roughly accurate, based on my memory of prior research and reading.]

Also, the article understates the contentious nature of the “low alcohol vs high alcohol” camps within the wine world – the intra-industry vitriol launched between the two opposing camps is the sort of stuff you can’t read out load in front of the kids.  

As a wine merchant, I’d appreciate your feedback regarding the wine style you prefer, if any.  I welcome all wine lovers into our camp.  It would also be helpful to hear whether you usually drink wine on its own (as a “Cocktail”) or with food, and if you drink wine in both settings, whether you prefer the same or different wine styles.  Many thanks…

Take care: wines are getting stronger | Life and style | The Observer.



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