Adelsheim’s Awesome Auxerrois


Clipboard aaaThe American Automobile Association is not a major donor to the National Grape & Wine Council, nor does Alcoholics Anonymous put in a big presence at wine tastings, but at a recent one, I sampled current releases from Adelsheim Vineyards—who always appear to be on their ‘A’ game—and opted to usurp their favorite letter anyway.

brought by aAmong the lineup, I was slightly underwhelmed by the aromatics on the 2011 Pinot Gris, which seem to have dissolved into a clean  pomme/petrichor mouthful, but which in past vintages has offered a more complex and penetrating noseful.  Adelsheim’s  standard issue  2011 Pinot Noir was a beautiful Willamette paradigm: Rich black cherry, cinnamon and brown sugar with cola notes; certainly able to stand with, say, Premier Cru Volnay. 2010 ‘Elizabeth’s Reserve’ was more restrained—cut from the same elegant cloth, but wanting time to display direction.

letter aAnyway, the surprise of the lot was the auxerrois.  This odd medieval grape, native of Lorraine, France (rather than Auxerre, for which it is named), is mostly used as a blend in wines from Alsace—notably Crémant d’Alsace and as component (and even the entirety) of many wines labeled ‘pinot blanc’.  It’s a close cousin to chardonnay, sharing a parentage that DNA profiling shows to be pinot noir and the rustic, now virtually obsolete gouais blanc.  Like chardonnay, auxerrois is an early-budding grape which tends to lose acidity quickly after ripening and becomes pendulous and flat.  However, unlike chardonnay—the planet’s most cosmopolitan grape, grown everywhere that white grapes can grow—auxerrois vineyards account for less than ten thousand acres worldwide, with a mere handful of wineries producing a single variety auxerrois in the United States.

And Adelsheim is One of ‘Em…

David A.

David A.

For which you may in part thank David Adelsheim, credited with introducing the often overlooked cultivar to Oregon back in the 1990’s—although, Michigan grape groupies have to give a shout-out to Bel Lago for having planted auxerrois on the Leelanau Peninsula several years earlier.

In any event, since founding Adelsheim Vineyards in 1971, so much applause, and so many accolades and awards have been bestowed upon David Adelsheim’s alabaster apex that he is now too top-heavy to make wine.  These days, he divides his time between strategy, marketing and sales and leaves the foot stompin’ to Dave Paige and Gina Hennen.  He’s an Oregon Vintner of the Year (2006), an Oregon History Maker (2010), an Oregon Lifetime Achiever (2012) and an Oregon Dude Who Doesn’t Have To Remember How To Pronounce Auxerrois (2013), and has bottled  what may be the best auxerrois ever produced outside of Luxembourg, or maybe inside Luxembourg considering I’ve never been there.

bottle“The 2012 growing season got off to a slightly slower than average start, with bud break occurring on April 23, about a week later than normal for the  Willamette Valley,” Adelsheim maintains with characteristically dull shop-talk. “Weather during bloom was close to ideal, with minimal rainfall towards the end of flowering. Reduced berry set led to smaller clusters and lower yields than the prior vintage.  Picking of the Auxerrois occurred on October 2. The remarkable growing season of 2012 resulted in clean fruit with intense colors and concentrated flavors. “

Well, that’s the medicine, and the sugar that helps it goes down goes something like this:

The_Sound_of_the_Letter_AAmber and ablaze with apricot in the autumn afternoon, the wine’s focal tones are beautiful.

Aromatically, Adelsheim’s auxerrois shows an amazing array; especially, its bouquet garni of tarragon and sage behind a rich peach, apple and poached pear perfume.

Alsace admires such attention to authenticity; as in its ancestral abode, Adelsheim auxerrois is alive with orchard fruits and a touch of mandarin orange;  the wine was prevented from undergoing chardonnay’s favorite crutch, malolactic fermentation, and as such has retained a fierce core of malic tartness balanced by sweet apple, ripe stone fruit and an herbal mélange which adds ginger to the nose notes.

Afterglow:  Tangy and terrific, the orange/lime carries through with soft touches of hazelnut and damp stone.


All in all, Adelsheim: ‘A’ for affort.


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No Snubs From Stubbs For This Schlubb, Bubb

Matthew Stubbs, MW, wants me in the worst way, which is the only way he’s likely to get me.  The Brugairolles-based Master of Wine is presiding over a two-day ‘tutored tasting’ on Languedoc-Roussillon, which is not being held in Languedoc-Roussillon, which might actually be fun.  It’s not even being held in Vinécole, Stubbs’ wine school, which according to his bio is in situ, wherever that is.

Clipboard masonsIf you would like to attend, you will need to come on down to E. 53rd in Manhattan to the Maison de Languedoc-Roussillon.

Now, despite an odd similarity in logos and an identical ‘handshake’, the Maison de Languedoc-Roussillon claims that it has no affiliation with the Masons de Liberté, but I call bullshit:  To  gain admittance, M. Stubbs, MW requires you to provide specific credentials, and among them are four hundred identical slips of paper which contain numerous symbols related to Freemasonry.

In any case, Mr. Maestro de Vino ‘teases’ we potential spondoolie spewers by causing us a little self-doubt regarding our knowledge of Languedoc-Roussillon, which you can be assured, is not up to par.

For example, he ponders, ‘Did you know that Languedoc-Roussillon is one of the largest wine regions in the world?’

Nope.  But as the ponderee, I must add: ‘Still, as long as you can use hyphens to define your wine region, Languedoc-Roussillon is nothing compared to California-Oregon-Washington.’

‘Did you know that Languedoc-Roussillon has over 30,000 vignerons?’

Depends.  What’s a vigneron when it’s at home—person, place or thing?

‘Did you know that Languedoc-Roussillon contains over 50 appellations?  How many do you know?’

Matthew Stubbs, MW

Matthew Stubbs, MW

Okay, Matt; we get the point.  Most of us are pretty Languedoc lame and Rousillon retarded and the best among us probably can’t name more than a handful of handles.  On the other hand,  I’m pretty sure that I could Google a seminar’s worth of information on them in the time it takes me to call a cab to take me to the airport to fly me to New York to attend the Roussillon Master Class seminar.

But then, you have to earn a living too, Matt, and as you so eloquently confess in your bio:

‘Being an MW is marginally more lucrative than being a musician!’

Keith-Moon-car-in-swimming-pool-011(Although I think we all agree that compared to musicians, Masters of Wine score fewer chicks, trash fewer Holiday Inns, inhale less crystalline tropane alkaloid, puke out of fewer tour bus windows, add fewer jerkoff contract riders to their dressing room demands and have precisely one less Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.)

So, just to make sure that those of you actually willing to shell out the shekels and show up at ‘shine shul are getting your money’s worth, I am now going to list some other ‘fun facts’ related to Languedoc-Roussillon which, in the odd event that His Master of Majesty forgets to mention them, you should bring up during pregnant pauses in the Feedback Session:

  • Languedoc-Roussillon vignerons

    Languedoc-Roussillon vignerons

    ‘Did you know that the largest parasitic tapeworm ever removed from a human body was an 18 ft. (5.486 m.) cestoda discovered within the descending colon of Sally Mae Latulippe of Coteaux du Languedoc Pic Saint Loup?’

  • ‘Did you know that Languedoc and Roussillon each contain exactly nine letters?’

  • ‘Did you know that there is a separate-but-equal Master of Wine exam for Black people known as Massa ob Wine?  (Also known as the Cori Page Can Only Unfriend Me Once exam).

  • ‘Did you know that the ‘Sud’ in Sud de France has nothing to do with soap, and, in fact, more than 80% of Sud de France residents have never even heard of soap?

  • ‘Did you know that Languedoc’s Secretary of Wine is named Roussillon and Roussillon’s Secretary of Wine is named Languedoc?

  • ‘Did you know that the average unibrow of a Languedoc vigneron contains over eighty thousand follicle mites?’

  • ‘Did you know that when blindfolded, Corbières citizens often can’t tell the difference between the smell of Tommette cheese and vomit?

  • ‘Did you know that in Minervois, women traditionally stand when they urinate while it is the men who squat?’

  • ‘Did you know that winemakers in the Banyuls AOC at the Spanish border cast no shadows and have no reflection in mirrors?’

In the event that you get any satisfactory feedback from my esteemed, but smarter-than-me colleague Matt Stubbs, please inform me of the specifics and I will gladly refund a portion of your entry fee, because I love to make fun of people smarter than me.

And the beat goes oeno…


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‘Lose The Bottle’, Okay. But What About The War?

Clipboard cloverToday, I am going to stray from the fast-track wine column to which you have become accustomed in order to speak briefly about a subject close to all our hearts, our hoodies, our hypothalamuses and our humeri—the Four-H Club for people who are afraid of farm animals.

That subject is ‘ha ha’.  So, let’s make it the Six-H Club and move on.

The cognitive experience of humor is broad and subjective; one man’s recreational drollery is another man’s homeostatic tension steam-cock, even though jokes about homeosexual steam-cocks have recently fallen out of favor.  It is believed that mirth serves to overcome sociocultural inhibitions, reveal suppressed desires while mocking those stupider, unluckier, uglier and duller than us, which is why Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil is a far funnier book than Portnoy’s Complaint.

Anyway, humor snobs are among the most unclean of those angels cast down from earth in the The War of the Sons of Light, which incidentally is a chapter in a book filled with more dry humor than either Leviathan or Portnoy’s ComplaintThe Dead Sea Scrolls.

Lewis Jacobs/ Still Photographer, 2008Now, correct me if I am wrong: Humor snobs are far worse than wine snobs, who at least are right some of the time.  Merriment and giggly glee are not to be ranked, are they?  Nor pigeonholed, categorized or poured into a Erlenmeyer flask better used for synthesizing crystal meth.

So, other than to say that Blazing Saddles is the most goddamn overrated movie in the history of everything and that Carlos Mencia is about as funny as an infected canker sore, I maintain that if you find Black Box’s latest ‘Lose The Bottle’ ad campaign rib-tickling, side-splitting, patella-slapping and/or guffawable, I will fight to the death your right to chortle without curtailment!

Beside, you probably like their wine, too.

Let Me Préparant le Terrain, As The Gallic Gurus Say…

black-box-cabernet-sauvignon-10499382On the surface, I have no issues with box wines.  In fact, I met my first wife in an alley behind the bar where she worked as she polished off the last of the box wine it was her job to throw away instead of drink:  She had me at guggle.

And on that same damp surface, Black Box wines are not too bad.  First among equals, which include Bota Box, Wineberry, R. Muller and CalNaturale (in a Tetrapak instead of a box), Black Box offers an array of vibrant, juicy, youthful wines with a respectable varietal provenance: Argentina malbec, Paso Robles shiraz, Chilean cabernet sauvignon, etc.

I am not sure if any of these wines rises to the level of ‘super-premium’ as the company insists, nor that they have a Dead Sea Scrolls shelf life as the company likewise insists.  But some of the other ideas that Black Box advances—that boxes tend to be more eco-friendly than glass or plastic (although the bag is plastic) and that there is less chance of oxygen transfer—wine’s enemy—are accurate.  Boxed wine has always been a good idea for cheap storage of open, inexpensive wine, but is has only been over the last decade or so that anybody bothered to up the quality ante of what is inside.

Now that it has happened, and bag-in-the-box wines have received good reviews from high profile wine writers like Wine Spectator’s James Laube and NYT’s Eric Asimov, the ad ante has likewise been upped.  A series of recent Black Box YouTube skits, a.k.a ‘hilarious comedy videos’  written and performed by alumni of the L.A. improv troupe ‘The Groundlings’, is part of a ‘Lose The Bottle’ campaign launched by supernovaed Constellation Brands over the summer.

Boy, if I'd been a fly-on-the-wall in those skit brainstorms, I'd have land on Lauren Burns right tit.

Boy, if I’d been a fly-on-the-wall in those skit brainstorming sessions, I’d have landed on Lauren Burns’ left tit.

Now, just as it easy for Black Box to oversell their okay juice by using words like ‘super-premium’ to describe it, leading to a certain deflation of sensory expectation with the first snort, is it not also possible for them to oversell Lisa Schurga and Lauren Burns by referring to them as ‘top comedic actors’, leading to a deflation of bragging rights after you’ve waited six hours in a Category 4 hurricane to get their autographs?

Yes, it is.

But, I cannot in good faith pass a similar ‘judgment’ upon the ‘Lose The Bottle skits themselves, because, as previously pointed out, the implementation of amusement as a biological function corresponds directly to the processing of ongoing events as a shaper of personality, suggesting that an individual who still laughs hysterically at flatulence references during their fiftieth viewing of Blazing Saddles might with equal fealty-to-self find Intoxicology Report pretentious, self-serving, childish and obscene.

According to Eugene T. Gendlin, Ph.D in (‘Content Paradigm’, 1954, pp. 26-29) these sorts of people were ‘born without a sense of humor’.

Beyond Postmodernism: From Concepts Through Perception of Imagery

What I can do, however—as both an educator and a blithering buffoon—is offer readers a synopsis of each skit, and then explain in terms common to both laymen and psychoanalysts why an individual might perceive the shenanigans of Groundling thespians as jocular, whimsical—and even boffo.

I will, of course, support my elucidations by referring to one of the currently accepted ‘Theories of Humor’.


1)  ‘Lose the Bottle, Not Your Friends’

The Skit:  A gang of upscale hipsters sit around the kitchen table drinking Black Box wine and shootin’ the shinola, while in the background, one of the lady-types announces that she will open a bottle of wine, even though the others indicate that they are already drinking Black Box wine, which her husband holds up to the camera and grins, ‘Good stuff, huh?’  Undeterred, the women proceeds with the bottle and finds it inexplicably difficult—nay, impossible—to open.  She begins to swear and swear and swear, and fifteen censoring ‘bleeps’ cover up ‘fuck’, motherfucker’, ‘cocksucker’ and other obvious selections from the FCC’s ‘dirty words’ list.

Eugene T. Gendlin, Ph.D

Eugene T. Gendlin, Ph.D

Why This Tickles Our Ribs So:  Besides tapping into our deep-seated fear of failing basic, simple tasks of dexterity in front of our peers, the skit employs the The Ontic-Epistemic Theory of Humor (OETC) proposed by P. Marteinson in 2006.  It asserts that when the ‘Social Being’ suddenly appears no longer real in any factual or normative sense, paradigmatic cases arise wherein factual reality is seen to conflict with and disprove social reality, which Marteinson calls ‘Deculturation’.

2)  ‘The Mountains Are Calling… And So is the Black Box Wine’

AK_1240The Skit:  A group of upscale hipsters set out on a journey to the mountains, but find themselves unable to make it out of the yard.  They trip over the garden hose, kick a turtle, walk into a tree and otherwise show the eye-rolling, head-shaking, ‘seriously?’-thinking but still cachinnating viewer that they are quite unprepared for the genuine wilderness.  As such, when they wind up camping in the front yard and drinking ‘packable’ versions of Black Box, we do a collective sigh of resignation that they will not be eaten by giant bears or contract Lyme Disease.

Why This Strikes Us as Ludicrously Amusing:  Besides the obvious pleasure we get in seeing puffed-up peckerheads injure themselves, this multi-layered skit employs the Computational-Neural Theory of Humor as suggested by Suslov in 1992.  It supposes that in the general scheme of the information processing, a specific malfunction conditioned by the necessity of a quick deletion from consciousness of a false version can be identified with a humorous effect on psychological grounds exactly corresponding to incongruity-resolution theory.

3)  Romantic Gestures? Do it with Black Box Wines!

boom boxThe Skit:  A trench-coat wearing former lover attempts to woo back his gal by holding up a boom box playing ‘their song’ outside her window in the middle of the night, thoroughly pissing her off.  Turns out that it ain’t even the right song!!  But when the sad sack holds up a container of Black Box instead, the woman unlocks the front door.

Why Stalkers In Particular Find This Skit Zany-Good to the ‘Nth’:   We’ve all been there, done that—attempted to reignite an ex-lover’s extinguished flame of passion by demonstrating to her what a psychotic and potentially dangerous douchebag we actually are.  But the solution turns out to be exactly what we suspected all along, even subconsciously:  Forget the sweet stuff—get the beeotch plastered as quickly and cheaply as possible.  The pocketful of roofies in the actor’s trench coat pocket it is, of course, implicit.

4)  اتمنى لك يوما طيبا Black Box لك !

Schafer Rd. at Leonard

Schafer Rd. at Leonard

The Skit:  In the middle of the night, an upscale hipster suffers catastrophic BMW failure in a really squirrely section of East Dearborn, and is understandably terrified when a gang of Muslim youth approach him.  His gesticulates absurdly and attempts some off-the-wall pidgin-Arabic phrases, but it turns out that they mean no harm and, since they are whizbang mechanics to boot, they are quickly able to get the car going.  To thank them, he cracks open a container of Black Box chardonnay, forgetting Surat Al-Ma’idah (5:90) from the noble Qur’an which prohibits the consumption of alcohol.  They take it as a gesture of disrespect and beat him to death with tire irons.

Why This One Is Funnier Than Billy Shit:  You really don’t want to piss off a race that is willing to fly planes into buildings, do you?—but that’s not why the skit is both ‘cute’ and ‘clever’.  In fact, it draws its comicality from the Misattribution Theory of Tendentious Humor first published in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (1980).  This theory postulates that when an audience is unable to identify exactly why they find a joke to be funny, it is because social mores require us to downplay the universal human sense of schadenfreude, or, finding gratification in the misfortune of others.

mind of menciaNatch, I am just as schadenfreudey as you are, which is why I lamented rather than rejoiced at the inevitable cancellation of Mind of Mencia on the Comedy Network, because nothing brought me a greater sense of personal fulfillment than watching the hare-brained Honduran hack make a total ass of himself by screwing up every joke, even the ones he stole.

Now, go drink some box wines and say goodnight, Gracie.

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Buggy Over Bugey

If you fancy yourself a genuine wine pro, and are the kind of supercilious genuine wine pro who is too proud to learn new words from a genuine sloppy, slathering wino, I recommend that you skip this part, because I’m gonna guess that the following sentence contains at least one word you will have to Google:

Bugey-Cerdon in département Ain makes a mousseux using méthode ancestral containing poulsard, and it is absolutely scintatrific.

I tossed in the last word because I am the type of sloppy, slathering wino who hates to be wrong, so if you know all about Bugey-Cerdon, Ain, Méthode Ancestral and poulsard, I still wanted to give you something you had to look up.

Which, by the way, you won’t find.

labelBugey:  On May 28, 2009, INAO gave its final approval for the elevation of Bugey Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) status.

Bugey-Cerdon: Cerdon is a commune within Bugey; it is renowned for its sparkling rosé and, oddly, a copper mine which produces product of the same color.

450px-Poulet_de_Bresse_-_Bresse_ChickenAin:  Named after the Ain River on the eastern edge of France bordered by the rivers Saône and Rhône, Ain has a culinary reputation unrivaled in France.  Beside the wines of Bugey, Ain is home to Bresse and the famous volaille de Bresse, the ne plus ultra of chickens:  With a red crown, white feathers and blue feet, it is said to mimic the color of the French flag.  Which is not to lessen the fame and gustatory impact of the bleu cheeses of Gex and Grièges nor the sturgeons of the Dombes.

Mousseux:  A French term used to describe sparkling wines made from  methods other than the méthode champenoise.  Not to be confused with crémant, which can only be used for wines that have been made using the méthode champenoise, but outside the designated area called Champagne.

querryMéthode Ancestral:  The method inspired this whole column—Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon Querry, 2011—pear, apple and quince juice sparklefied—is listed as having been produced in the same, interesting way as Bugey-Cerdon.  In the case of the latter, the grapes macerate for several hours prior to pressing; this is known as pelliculaire and insures optimum color and aromatic extraction.  The wine is racked, then fermented in chilled vats—halted by filtration when the must reaches 6.5% alcohol.  The wine is bottled, and stored at around 50 °F until a re-fermentation within the bottle forms carbon dioxide bubbles and raises the alcohol to 8%.  The process of dégorgement, so indispensible to méthode champenoise where the crown cap and lees are removed and various amounts of sugar added to kick start the bubbles, is not used at all; this can result in a slightly cloudy end product.

powell_jabberwocky.thumbnailPoulsard: A vinifera grape used in Bugey, typically grown in the region’s shale marl, limestone and clay soils.  It is classified as a red wine grape, but contains so few color phenols that wines made from it are very pale and resemble vin gris.  It is often blended with gamay in Bugey-Cerdon.

Scintatrific:  Beware the Jabberwock, my son; the mome raths outgrabe.

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You Say ‘Riedel’, I Say ‘Ry-del’—Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

L.: George Riedel R.: Jenny's mom

L.: George Riedel
R.: Jenny’s mom

Drinking Bordeaux at room temperature is not a social faux pas rising to the level of calling Barack Obama ‘boy’ at a State Dinner or asking Jennifer Lopez’s mom to bring some more clean towels to your hotel suite.  Nor is it tantamount to accidentally referring to Austria as ‘Anschluß Österreich’ in a conversation with Georg Riedel.

But it’s close.

Because, in an actual conversation with Georg Riedel—a tenth-generation lead crystal wine glassmaker at Riedel Glas Austria—the old Schluchtenscheißer pointed out the following:

‘Red wines have been consumed too warm.  You are losing out on the mouth feel, the freshness of the wine, if you serve it at room temperature.’

You might as well be drinking Veuve Cliquot from a champagne flute.

steven wright1Never mind that the great Stephen Wright once pointed out that every room is room temperature, Riedel’s Australian manager Mark Baulderstone concurs:

‘Anything drunk above 18C is too hot.’

I have no idea what 18C is, nor do I have the slightest interest in Googling it to find out since I’ll drink anything anytime at any temperature, but I know that his follow-up statement was even weirder:

‘The ideal room temperature is one where you need to wear a jacket.  If you are sitting there in shorts, I guarantee your wine will be too hot. Ask for an ice bucket, make it into a big slushy, put it in there for 10 minutes and I guarantee your wine will be at the right temperature.”

That’s a bucket load of guarantees, Mark.  Likewise, I guarantee that if they serve you when you’re dressed in shorts, it’s not the type of joint that has ice buckets.

Moving On…

For $106 per wine glass, I expect a centered photo.

For $106 per wine glass, I expect a centered photo.

Mark and Georg also maintain that the proper vessel from which to sup sparkles is a Burgundy glass, saying, ‘The flute is for special occasions, when a small amount is required. Otherwise, look at a wine glass and it will do a much better job for you.’

On this I agree.  The last time I drank champagne from a flute it all poured out the G# keyhole.

A Poor Joke, I Concur.  And Something Else With Which I Concur…

…The last time my family went into the wine glass making business, we realized that it would be a brilliant marketing move if we could convince everyone on earth that they need a different wine glass for every single wine label in their cellar, and then, as soon as they bought our complete collection, to begin a campaign to convince them that those glasses were the wrong shape to begin with.

Like Georg of Riedel Glas, who tells me that my $70 Riedel 4400/28 Sommeliers Vintage Champagne Flute is really not the best choice for Champagne after all.  Instead, he thinks I should invest in a $106 Riedel Sommeliers Burgundy Grand Cru Single Stem Glass.

My bad.  Although, for the record, Georg: With that kind of chutzpah (and cheddar in the cheese chest), I’d think you could afford an ‘e’ for your first name and an another ‘s’ for Riedel Glas.

Goblet Gobshite

Wine people have argued for many years about the ultimate value of this wide array of Riedel stemware, and I have participated in several demonstrations and at least one good-natured scam in which the same wine was poured into four different styles of glass, and indeed, I picked up different nuances depending on the bowl.

ISO metrics

ISO metrics

Obviously, I am not oblivious to the art, alchemy and marketing schtick behind the form follows function of Riedel glassware, or else I wouldn’t bother writing about it.  And for the most part, the theories are pretty sound: Certain shapes can in fact, deliver enhanced experiences with certain wine.  No argument here.

But can you find a glass for a tenth of Riedel’s ransom that presents wine by applying same basic principals?  You can.  Start with an ISO wine tasting glass, in which the mouth is narrower than the convex part and effectively concentrates the bouquet.  It sells for around $6, and is perfectly adequate for most table wines, being thin, inert and, though somewhat clunky in appearance, a wonderful workhorse that leaves sufficient space to swirl and sniff.

It’s a bit large for dessert or fortified wines—I’ll give you that.

And as for wine temperature and you sitting there in your cutoffs demanding a slush-filled wine bucket in which to cryo-trash your 1998 Close de Vougeot Grand Cru?

With apologies to balderdash Baulderstone, you’d be pulling a bigger banquet boner than if you went to a State Dinner and referred to Barack Hussein Obama as Iraq Saddam Osama.

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Tone-Lōc Discovers A New Michigan Afro-Disiac

Alright, dig it:

The girls all jockin’ at the other end of the bar,

Havin’ drinks with some no-name gwar

When they know that I’m the star.

So, I got up to find out what made them bitches blotto,

I asked the guy, why you so fly?  He said, ‘Kinky Pink Moscato’

L.: Jeff Neill R.: Dustin Stabile

L.: Jeff Neill
R.: Dustin Stabile

I owe one to my Petoskey buddies Jeff and Dustin; Mackinaw Trails Winery Brand Manager and winemaker respectfully.  Apparently, they send me a bunch of fruit wines and other lovely stuff that I promised to review and it never showed up.  Bottoms up, UPS!  Oh, and I also made the cringeworthy social gaffe of complimenting Dustin Stabile on the smokin babeliciousness of the pourerette at his tasting room and then found out that it was his sister.

So, here’s a freebie ad campaign/ t-shirt for the winery boys:

‘I Got Stoned In Petoskey’

Paolo Sabatini

Paolo Sabatini

Okay, so before the current moscato craze crests and passes into legacy and lore, the bandwagon still has a seat for Mackinaw Trails.  Michigan moscato is a rare beast; only handful of wineries grow it in marketable quantities, although its popularity as an inexpensive, easy-drinking, often entry-level porch pounder is changing all that.  In 2007, Michigan State University Assistant Professor Paolo Sabbatini, along with fellow grapehead Tom Zabadal (both of whose last names sound like Vinifera varietals), planted five kinds of muscat in an experimental vineyard: Orange muscat, muscat ottonel, moscato giallo, moscato canelli and valvin muscat.  To  people who find this sort of thing fascinating, valvin muscat is a very new hybrid (2006), developed by by grape breeder Bruce Reisch at the Cornell University New York State Agricultural Experiment Station as a cross between muscat ottonel and muscat du moulin.  It’s called an ‘interspecific white grape variety’, more cold hardy and disease resistant than vinifera muscat, and best of all, it is said to be very, very muscatty.

Mike and a non-phallic wine theif

Mike and a non-phallic wine thief

Lake Michigan Shore’s Tabor Hill winemaker Mike Merchant knows from valvin muscat, as his 2008 vintage took gold at the Grand Harvest Awards in 2011.  He grows other kinds of muscat too, but I can’t say which ones, because when I called to ask, whoever answered the phone kept asking me who I wrote for, and even though I kept telling her the name of this silly-ass column—and even though I have written about Tabor Hill many times in the past, three of them in the very year they won the award, she obviously was not ‘familiar’ with anti-journalism.  Cool, I totally get that, but not for nothing, who cares whether I write for Intoxicology Report or Wall Street Journal?  All I’m trying to do is give your winery free publicity, not sell you a vacuum cleaner or redeem your soul.

Matt Moersch

Matt Moersch

Anyway, Matt Moersch over at Free Run Cellars was more amendable to discussing muscat with a total stranger, especially when I told him that I was the managing editor of Wine Spectator.  He has been growing vinifera muscat for years—ottonel and canelli—and babying it through tough springtime chills by using a specific pruning and canopy method called Scott-Henry, also developed at Cornell.  He was originally reluctant to plant valvin because of its pedigree as a hybrid (he prefers to leave hybreeding to others), but now blends it into his ‘generic’, delicious, nicely sweet Lake Michigan Shore Moscato, which sells for around $17.

Good career move, Matt.  As Paolo Sabbatini quips, “Moscato is the perfect wine for the American sweet tooth. It’s simple and doesn’t scare the new wine drinker. Michigan is strategically placed in a viticultural region where Moscato could be a signature wine.”

Lissen Up, Mackinac Trails Winery

…who nearly derailed my article on Michigan moscato .

Happy trails to Mackinaw, 'til we meet again.

Happy trails to Mackinaw, ’til we meet again.

How?  Why?? Well, I had intended to feature their newly released wine, ‘Kinky Pink Moscato’, which is best consumed funky, cold and—if you speak Arabic and are not afraid of being beheaded for consuming alcohol—in Medina.

But, the product threw a monkey wrench into the mealy machinations of my mental marbles, hard as that may be for readers to fathom.  First, because Kinky Pink Moscato is not pink, and second, because Kinky Pink Moscato is not Michigan moscato: The grapes were shipped in from Northern California, and the name of the wine is ‘Kinky Pink’with ‘moscato’ tacked on that end, which may allude to the same anatomical gimcrack (pun) that Aerosmith sang about in ‘Pink’.

Or so I think.

L.: Tone-Deaf-Lōc  R.: L'il Kim Marcus

L.: Tone-Deaf-Lōc
R.: L’il Kim Marcus

Anyway, according to L’il Kim Marcus, the real managing editor of Wine Spectator, it will still appeal to ‘hip-hop tastemakers Kanye West, Drake, Waka Flocka Flame and DJ Khaled’, who have each given the wine a nod in songs or videos…’ (February 8, 2012).

‘Fess up:  I long to one day be as street savvy and gangsta name-droppy as Kim Marcus.

But even so, he fails to mention Tone-Lōc, whose career derailed faster than this column thanks to DUIs, domestic assault arrests and similar post-Crips skulduggery.

As for my Michigan mates Jeff and Dustin, the best I can offer Mackinaw Trails Winery beside a column dedicated to their non-Michigan moscato is more gratis marketing miscellany:

‘Try changing your name to Mack Daddy Trails Winery and see how the moscato flies off the shelves…’

That’s pretty fly, right?  Am I there yet, Kim Marcus?  Am I there yet??!

Posted in Michigan, MIDWEST, Moscato | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Schloss Leader: A Business Strategy?

Wolfsburg_VW-WerkHaving worked in Wolfsburg for a number of years, I can tell you that whereas I respect the technological traditions and cultural chutzpah of Germany—which, incidentally, was cool enough to name a major city after me—there is still a certain undead spirit of annoying superiority hovering over the people.

So annoying, in fact, that I frequently had to remind know-it-all engineers at Volkswagen where we stood in terms of the score:

Two to nothing.

Schloss Sauce Bears a Cross

Rheingau vineyards

Rheingau vineyards

As much as I joke about the Aryan race, though, I do take their wine seriously.  The lengths that this frosty fraternity of frenetic Franks has gone to grow grapes amid the Rhine Valley’s shivery shale is astounding.  And they’ve been improving it for millennia, to the point where it is often (and erroneously) said that Germans make only one kind of wine, but they do it better than anyone else.

For sure, they do riesling better than anybody else, and considering that they make two-thirds of the world’s supply, they should.  I might entertain argument from people who do not have German metropoli named after them who are fans of riesling from Alsace, but I’d counter it by saying that Alsace is, in fact, part of Germany depending on which way the wind is blowing.

Australia’s Grosset, Finger Lakes’ Hermann J Wiemer Vineyards, the Wachau’s F. X. Pichler and of course, my Northern Michigan buddies produce some class product, no question.  But, alas, not really in the same league as Rheingau’s Robert Weil or Nahe’s Doennhoff.

So whenever a German winemaker finds that the egg in the fining is now on his face, it is a sad day in Vintopia—especially when it is a hallowed estate like Schloss Schönborn, which has been making wine since 1349.

Last year, the German equivalent of the BATF discovered a couple of problems with Schönborn product—namely, a suspicious alcohol level in the Rheingau estate wines (potentially from illegal must concentrations; cryo-extraction, in other words) and a blend of reds from different regions, known under Verband Deutscher Prädikats (VDP) law as Übergebietlicher Verschnitt.

Both are verboten.

Tabula Rasa

Peter Barth, pre-exile

Peter Barth, pre-exile

The Germans have refined their methodology for dealing with those who would upset the grape cart, but shamed former Director of Wine Peter Barth learned that if you work for the SS, whether it is the Schutzstaffel or Schloss Schönborn, you need to keep your nose very, very clean.  ‘Tabula Rasa’ does not mean ‘Master Race’, but it does mean ‘blank slate’ and has nothing to do with the legendary blue-gray soils of the region.  It has to do with the purge of personnel that followed the revelations.

Protecting nearly seven centuries of reputation, the Count of Schönborn dumped 20,000 unsold bottles, offered to buy back every potentially ‘manipulated’ wine and exiled Barth—who had won the Garth Millau ‘Wine Director of The Year’ award in 2009—to Bad Dürkheim, where he now Cellar Master at Fitz-Ritter.

Rockin’ Röll

Another German tradition that has not yet caught on in the United States is the sort of unwritten rule that a new hire never bad mouth the reputation of his predecessor, unless you happen to the POTUS.  Schönborn’s new wine director Steffen Röll was immediately on a röll, hatin’ on Barth with his head-shaking and tsk tsking:  “What he did was absolutely not okay and I still can’t understand what his motive was…”

'I've got my eye on you, Röll.'

‘I’ve got my eye on you, Röll.’

I suspect that Röll knows exactly what Barth’s motive was, and will make very sure not to fall into the same temptation lest he find himself in a work cellar on the Eastern Front.

Meanwhile, I will continue to monitor the situation of these dirty rascals from my position on high as King of the Kassel.

Posted in GERMANY | Tagged , , | Leave a comment