Monday, January 30, 2017

New Wineries to Watch Fail

There are too many fucking wineries. Why do we need so many wineries? Really. All of you who are planning to start a winery some day, or your own label, DON’T! You’re not that good at making wine. I know you think you are, but you’re not. Sorry. Somebody had to tell you. The world does not need your take on single-vineyard, own-rooted Mondeuse. No one cares about your dedication to rescuing obscure varieties from the trash heap. Wow, you discovered Abouriou! Goody for you. Just leave it where it is. Let it go. Walk away. You’re not an artisan. Really. You’re not. Winemaking is not an art. Sculpture is an art. Ballet is an art. Balloon animals—art! Winemaking is an art about as much as vacuuming is an art. It may seem creative to the person doing it, but, really, it’s just about attachments and sucking. How is it an art? You take grapes, ferment them, stay out of the way (minimal intervention is how all the great wines are made, right?), do a bunch of lab work and the bottle the stuff. If that’s art, then so is cooking meth. At least people who are lousy at cooking meth eventually blow themselves sky high. Man, if only every new lousy winemaker did the same.

I’m not just talking about California here. The whole damn world has too many goddam wineries. STOP! Just stop. It’s getting ridiculous. Who’s going to buy all this crap? Yes, sure, there are a lot more stupid sommeliers than ever before, but not THAT many. Importers! Stop bringing in more and more wineries from Corsica, or the Canary Islands, or any other foreign countries like Idaho. We don’t want them. Really. Listan Prieto? No! Alicante Bouschet? Why? Don’t make me choose. Listan vs. Ali? Not exactly heavyweights.

So why not start eliminating wineries? Every wine publication has an article every year with a title like, “New Wineries to Watch.” Fuck. I hate those articles. Look back at those articles from five or ten years ago. Those wineries were not worth watching! I have enough wineries to watch. I can’t find the time to drink the wines from wineries with track records hundreds of years old. I don’t want any New Wineries to Watch. Know what I want? New Wineries to Watch Fail! That’s an article I want to read. I go to wine tastings. I taste wines from lots of new wineries. Most of them should fail! Really. I mean it. And everyone knows it. They don’t have a damned clue how to make good wine. So who told them they could? Oh, but winemaking is an art, and art has room for everything! No, it fucking doesn’t. Your wine isn’t Rembrandt, it’s Dogs Playing Poker. Stop opening new wineries! Start a brew pub, or a make cider, just like all the other idiots. Just not wine. Please.

I took the time to select a few new wineries that should be eliminated. Every big project begins with a few small steps. With a little effort and a lot of determination, in just a few years we will have a more manageable wine scene. Fewer wineries equals better wines. Here are a few of the wineries I’d like to see fail. This is just the first cut. Let’s see how cleanly we can make it.

Champagne En Les Derrières
Just what the world needs. Another Grower Champagne. For the love of God, stop bringing in more Grower Champagnes. There’s too many already! Look, I’m as sick of all the Grandes Marques as you are. Mumm, Moët, Zeppo, Gummo, Chico… And what about Veuve Clicquot? Is there a worse Champagne? It’s like drinking sparkling Lemon Pledge. Or lightly flavored fart water. So, yes, bring on the Grower Champagnes. But there are enough here already! More than enough! How different are they really? Not very. Oh yes, for years this Domaine sold their grapes to the top Champagne houses, but now you can taste the wines they make for themselves! I don’t want to. Really. I don’t. Just because a guy used to sell his oats to make Cheerios doesn’t mean I want to taste his breakfast. Champagnes are hard to tell apart. We don’t need a hundred of them, any more than we need a hundred different waffles. Let’s hope that Champagne En Les Derrières will be a New Winery to Watch Fail!

A Donkey, A Goat, A Chimp, and A Stoat
Fuck. No more wineries that sound like the beginning of a joke. And, really, seriously, no more domestic wineries making Natural Wines. We don’t even know what that is! Nobody knows. It’s buried beneath all the goddam shit from lactating cows. Let’s be clear. Natural wines are not better wines. And we don’t need any more! I’m not kidding. We really don’t. You just got out of UC Davis, you can barely make bulk wine, and now you’re going to show the world what wine should taste like? Bury it in the ground like qvevri other asshole. And stop telling me it’s better for the planet. Or for my health. That’s stupid. Sulfites won’t kill you. Gum arabic won’t kill you. Nothing added to wine will kill you. The goddam alcohol will kill you! Lower alcohols don’t help! It’s like eating only small orders of McDonald’s french fries to lose weight. And better for the planet? Listen, do me a favor. Stop driving hundreds of miles to tend those natural, organic vineyards in your gas guzzling, piece of shit Ford F-150. Please, don’t ship me yet another fucked-up, faulty, Natural Wine from the Jura on a refrigerated container ship spewing endless pollutants into the ocean, that’s dropped off in a harbor, trucked in another climate-ruining vehicle to a warehouse, that is then featured in the newsletter of the local “Feel Better About Yourself” wine bar for the local wine bozo to order by the glass. Enough. It’s a charade. Nothing about wine is natural. Humans make it! Fuck. So let’s see if A Donkey, A Goat, A Chimp and A Stoat can be our New Winery to Watch Fail!

Prick Family Vineyards
Just what the world needs. Another $200 Cabernet. Well, it’s actually a $40 Cabernet that sells for $200, but you get the idea. When Rich Prick, and his wife Lady Ima, decided to move to Napa Valley and start yet another cult winery, they had dreams of being the next Harlan Estate. Which is like moving to Hollywood to be the next Rudolph Valentino—you’re eighty years too late, for fuck’s sake. Who’s buying ridiculously expensive Napa Valley Cabernet? Sommeliers with daddy issues? The ones who have seven different Cakebread Cabernets on their list and still wet the bed? Nobody wants expensive Napa Cabernet anymore. And there’s too freakin’ many of them as it is! There are too many Rich Pricks in the wine world, we don’t need any more. What’s next? The founder of Tesla making $200 Elon Muscadet? Amazon’s founder making fucking Mencia that’s $250 under the Jeff Bierzos label? Christ, like the FaceBook CEO says, there’s a Zucker berg every minute. I’m sick of it. I hope every Cabernet over $200 fails, but let’s start with the new Prick Family. Though, damn the luck, I think they’re serving it at most of the White House dinners.

Monday, January 23, 2017

C.S.W. Like Me

I’m a C.S.W. There, I’ve said it. Certified Specialist of Wine. I am a member of a group that represents the most knowledgeable among us when it comes to wine. This isn’t bragging, mind you, this is simple fact. I took a test. My answers were found to be correct no less than 75% of the time. I have letters after my name now, and the great responsibility that comes with them. Let me repeat, 75% of the time I selected the proper answer to a question about wine given four answers to choose from. Knowledge is power. And I’m running at a guaranteed 75%. I’m a wine specialist. Certified.

Every now and then, a strange voice will appear in my head and I begin to write down what it has to say. Which is often not a good idea. I have always been offended by those who pass a silly test and then append letters to their names. It's unimportant, and probably says more about me than it does about them, but, nevertheless, it annoys me. Which is a good enough reason for all of you to keep doing it. 

The rest of this piece is over at Wine Advocate's Wine Journal. There isn't a comments section there, but feel free to read it, return here, and then tell me what a jerk I am for making fun of the folks who spend a lot of money to prove they know almost nothing about wine. I don't mind.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Donald Trump, Your New Emperor of Wine, Explains His First 90 Days

“Three score and ten years ago, my father brought forth upon the incontinent a new President, conceived in a couple of seconds and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, and all women are basically available.”

How’s that for an opening to my big speech? I just made Lincoln better, folks. “Honest Abe.” Where does that come from? Let me tell you something. Lincoln was our most overrated President. Very unpopular. I mean, they shot him in a Booth! What does that tell you? I’ll tell you what it tells you, the guy was a loser. Yeah, sure, he freed the slaves, the Great Ejaculator and all that. So what? I like Presidents that finish their terms. He’s got a nice Memorial though, that Lincoln Memorial, I’ll give him that. Have you seen it? Classy, like something I’d have on my front lawn. I’ll definitely have the greatest memorial ever. I’m telling you, folks, it’s going to be the greatest memorial ever. It’ll be yuge! My hair will be made of solid gold. Maybe I’ll have that Jeff Koons build it. He’s a great artist, the greatest, have you seen those big shiny balloon animals he makes?, they’re fantastic. A guy that can make shiny balloon animals is the perfect guy to make my memorial, and, folks, you know I love Koons. Anyway, wait until you see my Emperor of Wine Memorial. I know most of you can’t wait.

It’s 2017, can you believe it, and I’m your New Emperor of Wine. I’m going to get right to work fixing wine. There’s a lot to do. A lot to do. I have a list of what I’m going to do in the first ninety days I’m Emperor of Wine. In just the first ninety days, I know, it’s incredible, it’s fantastic. These things are going to happen, folks, because I’m here to make wine great again. I’m here to be everybody’s Emperor of Wine.

The first thing that’s going to happen is I’m going to appoint my staff. These are people you can trust to do their best for wine, and they’re all incredible people, just brilliant, and they all want to work for me. I mean, just listen to these names, folks, these are big names, the biggest, it’s just incredible.

I’m appointing Jon Bonné to taste all the wines from Australia. Jon is the greatest wine writer working today, bar none, the greatest. He knows so many words, folks, so many words. I mean, you go to dinner with him, he literally sits on a dictionary! It’s amazing. “Malolactic”—he knows what that means! I thought it was my wife’s real name, Malolactic, and that’s what makes her so creamy. Jon’s going to be fantastic, and I know he’s going to fix Australian wine. I don’t like Australian wine. Not one bit. Yellow Tail? That’s fake news, folks. I’m don’t do that. I know Jon is going to make sure Australian wines get back on track. He’s the leading authority on Australian wines and wrote a book on it, “The New California Wines.” These are great credentials.

Speaking of California, everybody wants to know what I think about California. Overrated. It’s the most overrated state in the union, the most overrated. And the most overrated wines in the world are California wines. They all taste the same. I’ve tasted them all, folks, and they all taste the same, like they passed through your Colin Powell. And it’s not going to matter anyway. In the first ninety days, I’m going to build a wall. And the Mexicans are going to pay for it. Now I didn’t say how they were going to pay for it, but they are, you can count on that, maybe a piñata tax, and it’s going to be yuge, a really nice, big wall. Well, it doesn’t have to be that big, Mexicans are small people. And then once the wall is there, the one the Mexicans are paying for, who’s going to pick the grapes in Napa Valley? I’ll tell you who. Nobody. And they’re not going to pick the food either because those people are criminals and rapists and I don’t want them handling my food. Though I am proposing that until we can get all that produce harvested mechanically, we temporarily hire the former employees of Ringling Bros circus to help pick grapes. Those clowns should feel right at home in Napa.

I’m also announcing today that covering all of France, all of France, including the hard parts, is Madeline Puckette. I mean, it’s just French wine, and Madeline knows everything about French wine, absolutely everything. She’ll show those French. They’re such snobs, folks, it’s unbelievable, they think they have the best wines in the world, like their schist don’t smell. Madeline’s going to tell them the way things are. She’s got fantastic charts of everything, pie charts and graphs and Venn diagrams. Though I don’t care Venn, I only care why. There is no greater expert writing about wine today than Madeline, no bigger expert. Listen, what she doesn’t know about wine… What she doesn’t know about wine, people, could literally fill hundreds of books. I’m not kidding. She’s already filled one, it’s called “Wine Folly.” You should read it, it’s fantastic. Donald, Jr. read it, it's even simple enough for him, and usually he can’t even read Lemony Snickett, which I had once, it was really itchy, believe me, really itchy, but some penicillin cleared it right up. Madeline will bring simple to French wine and finally get rid of those pesky facts. Highly overrated, facts highly overrated.

In the coming days I’ll have even more appointees for you. My people are talking to everybody. Everybody wants to be part of my wine empire, everybody. Especially the really big people. I can’t even find jobs for all of them! It’s incredible. I had to tell Jancis, “No.” Lettie Teague! Lettie Teague, Ladies and Gentleman, I had to tell her, “No.” Can you imagine turning down Lettie Teague? Who does that? Karen MacNeil, “No! Not a chance!” And she wrote the damned Bible. I had to turn down all of these lovely ladies, all of them begging for Burgundy from me. They throw themselves at the Emperor of Wine, it’s unbelievable, they’ll let you do anything. Yeah, I grabbed their Volnay, a handful of Pousse d’Or, but that was that, I mean, what else could I do? I'm the Emperor of Wine.

And after all my appointments, then I build the wall, and then I take apart the A.C.A.—the Affordable Cab Act. People ask me all the time, all the time, it’s fantastic, when I’m going to get rid of Affordable Cab, and, believe me, it’s the first thing I’m going to do. People don’t want Affordable Cab, Affordable Cab isn’t working, it’s terrible, Affordable Cab is a yuge ripoff, it’s ruining our economy, and I’m going to end it, and replace it. I don’t know with what yet, but I have my people working on it.

Though I’m thinking, VODKA!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Wine Critics in Hell Act 6


If this were an actual natural wine bar in Lodi, it wouldn’t be this crowded. So it must be Hell. It certainly is for the wine critics involuntarily drinking orange wine, Lodi Zin, or Prosecco, which is what they serve by-the-glass in Hell. It is possible to get Meiomi Pinot Noir by the bottle, unless you’re Laube, because he rated it 92 points. Which is but one reason he’s condemned to eternal wine critic damnation. Alice Feiring seems to be enjoying the orange wine, though she has lost several teeth to it, and it’s apparently turned her hair the same orange shade. Suckling is convinced that this isn’t Hell generally, it’s Parker’s Hell specifically. But if that were true, where’s Jancis? Matt Kramer feels pretty comfortable in Hell, having made life a living one for so many before he died. Laube seems pretty drunk. He’s begun talking to himself, declaring that he’s a “Denizen of Hell to Watch in 2017.” Galloni is pretty sure this whole play is all about him, though, much like when he was a living wine critic, there is no evidence to back this up. The Stranger, who seems to be enjoying all the nastiness and drama of the wine critics in Hell, seems the most energized of the group, while the Bartender just keeps refilling everyone’s wine glass, and listening.

Parker: (walking over to the Stranger’s table and staring down at the Ouija board) You know, Stranger, I’ve been thinking. How do we know we’re actually dead? I don’t remember dying. (he turns to the bar) Does anyone here remember dying? And all of us at once? What is this, some kind of 100 Point Rapture? A wine blogger wet dream? Death of the Scalesmen? And when it comes down to it, how do I know that I can’t just walk out of this dump? What happens if I try?

(Parker has everyone’s attention. The Stranger is just staring down at his Ouija board, smiling to himself a bit, and shaking his head in exasperation.) 

Stranger: (calmly) Oh, Bob, I expect you to try. I expect all of you to try. There’s just one problem. You can never escape a Hell of your own making. Walk out that door, and it won’t be any different. Out that door is this same room. Filled with these same losers. Even the same bartender. Thinking you can escape is just part of the fun of being in Hell. Even when you leave, Bob, there’s no way out. You’re all here for the same reason. It’s not that you’re dead. No one cares if you’re dead! It’s that you’re dead to the wine business. You’re dinosaurs, lady and gents. You’ve turned into noxious fossil fools.

Suckling: Wait. So I’m not dead, but I’m in Hell? Jeez, I feel like a vegan.

Stranger: I didn’t say you weren’t dead, Suckling. I didn’t say you were, either.

Galloni: (angrily) This is stupid. I don’t like anybody here, no matter how much you all admire me. I’m leaving.

(Galloni exits the door stage right, and, but a moment later, enters the door stage left.)

Parker: Just like when he’s reviewing. Never knocks.

Galloni: What the hell? That’s not possible. What is this place? (to the Stranger) Listen, whoever you are, I need to get out of here. I have hundreds of wine reviews to write. My subscribers are waiting. I can’t waste time here with this bunch of…of…has-beens. I have wines to score, and maps to make. I’m not like these clowns, I’m a full service critic! I don’t just recommend the party wine, I’m also the Mercatorer.

Laube: (loudly, but to himself) I think I’m gonna like it here. Yes. It’s nice. You know, when you said you were going to put me in assisted living, I was afraid I was going to be lonely. But look at all the new friends you’ve made here, Jimmy! And I think the redhead has a thing for me. Yes, she does. I think so, too. The Italian guy is kinda creepy. His head is too big. He looks like he’s a bobblehead doll. Fuck, I need another drink… (his voice trails off)

(The wine critics look nervous. Galloni’s failed escape has flummoxed them. Only Laube is content, off in his own little world. Alice comes over to sit near Laube in an attempt to stop him from talking to himself. She offers him a taste of her orange wine. He looks at it with the cocked head and confused look of a terrier listening to a squeaky toy.) 

Feiring: It’s OK, Jimmy. Try it. It’s really good. I can’t believe they have my favorite wine here in Hell.

(Laube takes a sip of the orange wine, and quickly spits it all over the bartender. The bartender never flinches.)

Laube: What is that shit? Christ, it tastes like Kramer writes. A little flowery, but there’s that really bitter edge. Where’s the fucking Meiomi? Papa needs some sweets…

Kramer: Oh, just shut the hell up, Laube. You’ve done the same goddam thing for 30 years. And you know what? You’ve got nothing to show for it. You’ve written thousands of wine descriptions and given out thousands of numbers. And what did it all mean? Not shit. 30 years of “wine writing” and you’ve used twenty different numbers and twenty-eight different words. You’re the Magic 8-Ball of wine writing. You can divine about 16 different things, and you’re full of some really creepy fluids.

Suckling: (eyeing Kramer) Listen, everybody, Bob might be on to something. I don’t remember dying either. And what about this? (He loudly breaks his Riedel glass on the bar) If we’re dead, then if I stab Kramer with this broken wine glass, it won’t hurt, right? (waving the broken glass around and approaching Kramer) Or it won’t kill him, anyway. And I won’t go to Hell because I’m already there. I’ve always wanted to stab Kramer with a broken Riedel. (He feints at Kramer, who doesn’t blink.)

Parker: Put it down, Suckling. It’s the wrong goddam glass. You have to use the right glass. You need the wine glass the hip sommeliers are using if you’re going to commit a Zalto and battery.

(Suckling continues to menace Kramer with the wine glass. Making quick jabs at his neck, he’s creeping closer and closer. Everyone else seems frozen in place, captivated by the threat of violence.) 

Kramer: (in a low tone of voice) Go ahead, Suckling. I don’t care anymore. Kill me first. Then finish off the rest of these washed-up wine critics. You’d be doing us a favor.

(Suckling draws his arm back, looking determined to gash Kramer’s throat. Before he can drive the broken Riedel home, the bartender draws a gun, aims, there is a very loud “BANG.” Everyone gasps. From the gun comes a white flag that reads “BANG!” Suckling grabs his own shoulder in pain. The bartender fires again. BANG! Another white flag emerges from the gun that reads, “I’m a 100 on that!” Suckling falls to the floor and is motionless.) 

(Everyone is silent. Then Alice screams loudly.)

Parker: Well, there you go. A whole lot of Miss Feiring in Hell…

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Notes on the 2017 Vintage--Worst Year Ever?

I traveled and tasted widely for this review of the wines of 2017. I think, in general, the vintage can be summed up as miserable. The wise consumer should give ’17 a Pass—“Donner” seems appropriate. This is not unexpected, of course. Most of us began dreading 2017 toward the end of 2016. It turns out with good reason. My tastings, which cover every significant wine region on this doomed planet, show that, with few exceptions, 2017 was the worst year ever recorded since wine reviewing began. Which means, on a bright note, that Pinot Gris quality remains steady.

You'll want to read my insightful views on the dreadful 2017 vintage--the first reviews published anywhere of what is certain to be a miserable year. It's a global catastrophe! Make sure and believe all of the worst scenarios for 2017 you read. I promise you, it will actually be worse than you think. To read about the 2017 wines from around the globe, you'll have to jump over to Tim Atkin's wonderful site. Please leave your brilliant remarks on his site, or, if you must, begin the New Year as a beloved Common Tater here.