Waiter! What's this rat doing in my Chardonnay?!

Ratshoppers4_2In late-breaking news from "Deadline Hollywood", I paste this excerpt:

Meanwhile, Disney says Ratatouille’s Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday opening week grosses proved to be the biggest ever for a Pixar film… A lot has been made… about the difficulty of merchandising a kitchen rat. But I’m told the Soda Fountain Studio Store next door to Hollywood’s El Capitan Theater has been non stop packed with Ratatouille shoppers. (See photo). I’m told that the store cannot keep in stock plush toy rats and radio controlled rats. Also big sellers are chef hats and kids cookbooks. Other Ratatouille items for sale at either Disney Stores, mass retailers and specialty retailers include: Ratatouille Chardonnay (Costco), Ratatouille cheese (Costco), Ratatouille back-to-school items, Ratatouille kids cookware toys, Ratatouille kids home decor and cooking classes (Sur La Table).

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Wine on St. Patty's Day?

Guinness_iiReuters reported this morning that sales of Guinness, Ireland’s National drink for centuries, are beginning to slip.  Significantly.  According to its owner, the giant, global firm Diageo, sales of Guinness in Ireland are down 7% over a year ago.

Apparently, Ireland’s economic prosperity, new-found wealth, imigration trends and international perspective have led to a national palate more inclined to pull a cork than a pint.  Wine (and a handful of other quaffs) is on the rise.  And while "Irish" pubs are popular worldwide, with an average of one new one opening each day, the ones actually located in the Motherland are closing at the same daily rate.

I must admit, I view this with mixed emotions…

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Seen & Heard at ZAP!

Portal07_12_roll Every year, just before Super Bowl time, Bay Area wine lovers play host to ZAP, the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers event that consumes both halls at the venerable Fort Mason Center.  This year there were slightly fewer wineries than last year, for reasons I can’t quite figure out.  From the plethora of purple teeth I saw, there are still hordes of people who love this particular grape. 

But there were still over 300 producers in attendance.  If each poured just one wine, that would be more than any sane human could hope to taste, no matter how accomplished a spitter.  And I think the average was closer to three wines per winery, so one must approach this event with a sound strategy and the discipline to stick to it.  I’m great at the former. 

But I got distracted by eavesdropping, which is easy to do when you’re elbow-to-elbow and glass to glass…

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New York Bans Trans Fats??

Nurse4quadabout_1If you have even a single entrepreneurial bone in your body, you’ve likely pondered New York’s coming black market in Trans Fats.  Now that such fats are banned in the Big Apple, I foresee tremendous black market potential for some old favorites – foods high in hydrogenated oils such as cookies, chips, pizzas, hamburgers and fries. 

But if planning to feather your retirement nest by hawking Cheeto’s under the dark of night, you’d better hurry.  If the Heart Attack Grill gets in on the action, the market is as good as sutured.  With their Quadruple Bypass burger (right) and Flatliner Fries (still cooked in old-fashioned lard!), hawkers of mere Cheeto’s are doomed.  This famed Tempe institution has managed to use the world’s oldest marketing technique to move more than their share of ground cow, while simultaneously raising the ire of feminists and the Arizona State Nurses Association.  Rumor has it they’re looking for new locations.

Such institutions are no longer welcome in the Big Apple (suggested slogan – "Watching your waistline so you don’t have to").  The city’s new ban on trans fats has raised more ire than a scorned feminist, which pales, apparently, relative to a scorned New York City Hot Dog vendor.

NYC lawmakers must have missed the good news on Resveratrol, which was found to offset the affects of fat in mice.  Had they but known, they might have simply mandated a daily dose of these red wines instead of banning trans fatty acids…

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What is that… that smell???

Milkbus_1Before I traveled the wine road for a living, I commuted to cubicleland on a city bus.  Ask anyone who has spent a few minutes in a bus stop to describe its scent and you’re unlikely to hear the word "appetizing".  More likely, they’d describe the lingering personal hygiene limitations of its unfortunate nighttime dewllers – those without access to showers.  Or bathrooms.

CookiesInto this scenario insert this week’s landmark "scent ads" by the California Milk Board and their ad agency, Goodby Silverstein.  For details, take a moment and see the video clip of the news reel (yes, there is a commercial first, sorry).  Short on time?  Here’s a synopsis – the "Got Milk?" folks combined their famous campaign with scent strips that made selected bus stops smell like, get this, freshly baked CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES! 


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300 Million?? Is there enough wine?!

Usa300_1 So, we crossed a demographic milestone in America last  week.  People who keep track of such things tell me my neighbors now exceed 300 million.  Which goes a long way towards explaining the parking situation in my neighborhood. 

This sort of news story brings an unfamiliar spotlight to demographers – normally rather quiet, brainy, government wonks toiling in relative obscurity until lured away by the big bucks of a corporate offer.  In a previous lifetime, I worked in demographics.  So this kind of social milestone tends to catch my attention.  And as I thought about its significance, I began to wonder what my beloved wine industry will be like in 2027 when the 300,000,000th U.S. citizen reaches the age of 21… 

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"Questions answered. Answers questioned." All about Pinot (1 of 2)

“So why would somebody choose cane pruning, given all the labor involved?” I asked Webster. Perched on a hillside vineyard hundreds of feet above the valley floor, we were ignoring a view in favor of the task at hand. Stepping from vine to vine, we’d select the two best grapevine canes, trim off the rest, and tie the strongest one to the trellis, reaching horizontally towards the neighboring vine. Finally, if we succeeded without breaking the cane, the second “back up” cane was cut off, leaving a single “cane trained” vine.

“Cane training is more labor intensive, and can only be afforded when the wine’s price supports the cost” Webster explained, “Cane training involves either two canes extended in opposite directions from the trunk or in more densely planted vineyards, a single cane extended towards the neighboring vine.”

Webster is a partner in a small Pinot Noir producer – the kind we like to discover and support. Some such producers tend vineyards owned by others in order to assure their grape quality – sort of a modern version of share cropping, but more equitable. My wife and I had spoken with the partners many times as we passed this vineyard, but this time I’d offered to help with the manual labor in exchange for some knowledge.

Webster continued, “By training a new cane each year instead of simply growing canes from a permanent cordon, or trained branch, the new growth is less likely to be diseased, and we feel it produces better quality fruit (Illustrations). Of course, such decisions are driven by the style of pinot you have in mind and the results of experiments in your own vineyard – each pinot vineyard responds a bit differently to each decision you make…”

This is but one example of why wine drinkers find pinot so alluring – it responds differently to so many conditions, from the vineyard to the glass. As such, the number of decisions an artisinal producer can make is constantly increasing, and their combined affect on the wine is like no other.

Mirroring the fervor of the producers they adore, true pinot lovers are constantly driven to seek “the next great producer”. Old-time pinot lovers look on the wine’s recent popularity with some dismay, feeling as if the whole world has discovered their great little hobby and made it more difficult to acquire their treasures. But newbies and veterans alike agree that our pinot selection service is useful. We take our responsibility seriously, tasting new pinots almost daily on behalf of our subscribers. Here are some new releases we are proud to introduce:

New Releases!

  • Roessler Cellars, 2004 La Brisa Pinot Noir still just $28.
    This lovely wine from cool Sonoma Coast vineyards was a sell-out hit when we introduced the 2003, and we wouldn’t have this allocation of the 2004 if I hadn’t called and bugged the winery for more. The original release date for the ’04 was this summer and when I learned it had been moved up by four months “because it’s tasting so great now”, I wondered if it was the cash-flow talking. But pulling a bottle from our precious allocation quickly qualmed my cynicism – I should have known the Roesslers wouldn’t release a wine that wasn’t great! An amazing price from this reliable pinot-only producer. I haven’t seen production numbers for this new release, but the ’03 produced less than 600 cases.
  • Casa Baranca 2004 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills (Organic) $30 (“Miles’ Selection” subscribers will see this wine in April shipments!)
    I first tasted this wine at the 2006 Pinot Noir Shootout in March – a blind tasting of 40 Pinots selected from 230+ entrants. My notes said "Likely expensive and highly popular. Opulent, with mouth-watering sweet-tart cherries, pleasantly integrated sweet spices and a touch of gaminess. Nice acidity!" I was pleased to see that this wine was in fact, NOT expensive, as pinot goes! But I do believe my intuition was right about it becoming popular – time will tell. Just 350 cases produced!


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    Quote of the Week:
    "Small and mid-size wineries are driving the changes in California wine. They are the market innovators…"
    Vic Motto, Wine Industry Consultant