Posts Tagged With: wine industry


quick sips


2012 – Balletto Vineyards & Winery – Sexton Hill – Chardonnay – Russian River Valley

More charm than you get from most Chardonnays, and I’m biased, I’ll concede.  I love Balletto, and all my experiences there have been resounding and inspiring as a wine writer.  But this Chardonnay, just considered objectively, says something different.  Not just about the winery, or even Chardonnay, or even as a standalone wine, but something to enjoy in life.  A story and voice that provides Zen, your needed peace.  There’s a charm and engagement in this ’12 Sexton Hill that’s absent in other RRV Chard interpretations.  Atmospheric fruit, not too much of an acidic roar; just a musical equilibrium that accompanies you from the sip’s start to last chapter, page.  It’s memorable and universal, with its own depth and sovereign direction.  Just what I hope to have in anything I sip.  (MM92)

img_10742012 – Stonestreet Estate Vineyards – Cabernet Sauvignon – Bear Point Vineyard

Cabernet.  What do you want?  The atypical Bordeaux bull or something a little more poised and passionate, more poetic and artfully crafted, representative of place, where the fruit’s birthed?  This Cabernet is far-reaching, to all Cab audiences.  Smoky and gritty, focused texture flavor arrangement boasts its confidence and syncopated ardor; lovely personality in principal, and after an hour or two (in preference two) of oxygen assimilation, you’ll be sung-to and caught by more taste-instrumented galaxies; black berries and dark chocolate, rich leather and espresso echoes design its own illustration.  The more romantic edge of this Cab, from Stonestreet, one of my loved tasting rooms on Healdsburg’s Square, comes with the fleshly floral ides in the nose.  Empirically relentless in its charm, its steps down your senses’ street.  (MM94)

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Just ran into old friend, from winery I used to work at, for— no, AT.  Nice to see her, always cheery and with a rich and believable smile.  One of the few wine industry people I have zero criticisms of.  Why?  She’s genuine, sincere and conversational.  MY time, Oakville, nears its end—  have to put myself back in traveler character:

He knew he had a meeting, less than 20 minutes.  Told himself he didn’t care.  But he did.  It was work, this could be his “big break”, they all said, covering a huge tasting of Napa and Sonoma micro-producers.

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Occidental Respite

img_0931On a  day off, I wanted to taste.  And I knew where I was headed.  I just wasn’t anticipating this magnanimous impression.  Right when I parked, down a scenically stretched driveway from Occidental Road, I parked just outside the Balletto tasting room.  Relaxed and removed Xanadu sense enveloping me from the first step on that gravel, following me into the cozy room which reminded me of the living room of a friend’s Central Oregon cabin.  Met by Ms. Charlotte, warmly and genuine invite to the bar, she pressured me with nothing, only setting a glass before me and pouring me some of the exceptionally rounded and balanced sparkling.  The to a Pinot Gris and Sexton Hill Chardonnay which had me equally struck.

I had the vision that I was over at a friend’s house, simply tasting wine and talking about the Russian River dimension, the styles of Pinots and Chards you find around the tasting room versus other growing zones in the state, or even the county.img_0924

She as well put some of the ’14 Rosé of Pinot  before me which struck me in how assertive it was with its flavor; not in any way passive or quick, or one of those safe Rosés that someone would say, “Yeah, it’s great for just sipping on a hot day.” No.  This Rosé of Pinot translation delivered an acute dactylic dance; the luminary stylistic effulgence you hope to taste from Rosé bottle, but don’t, ever.  Here you will.  Balletto shows there doesn’t have to be the humdrum pattern of Rosé production.  There can be narrative, there can be liveliness, and persuasive qualities in what you let prance on palate.

Two Pinots, the ‘RRV’ and ‘Burnside Road’, respectively.  Both were fiery in the catapulting of fruit and terroir-sewn inference, but still with that gentle, feminine, savory tryst that Pinot denotatively ensures.  I didn’t favor one of the other, they both roared when with me, and showed me more of the stratospheric intensity to which Balletto cares for their wines; how they’re produced and how they reflect site in addition to varietal interpretation and oenological intent.

Then, the ’12 Zin, which I have to say is one of the most distinct and playful wines (regardless of varietal, region, or vintage) that I’ve tasted since, well, anciently.  Nothing excessively jammy or serrated about the texture or olfactory setting; all harmonized and communicative, depth and amorous with what it does; black, red, and a bit of blue fruit insinuation in all measures of the song.  Again, fun.  And if I ever do drink Zin, I hope to enjoy, not be deafened by high alcohol and scattered fruit intentions.

Coming home with me after my visit with Ms. Charlotte at Balletto’s base, were the Sexton Hill, Russian River Pinot, and the Zin.  So I ask myself as a wine chaser and writer and professor, ‘what I learned’.  Or as I ask my students, “What am I walking away with?” Hard to say, as I walked back to my car across that gravel thinking so much.  But for one, certainly a new affinity for artfully arranged wine.  Nothing self-anointing about this label, just humble, precise, prowess-stricken oenology.  Anyone reading this needs to visit if you not only want to taste wines, notably Pinots and Chardonnay—and that sparkling!—but be taught something about wine.  By the wines themselves.  Not some pseudo-sagacious host only wanting to hear themselves speak.  Balletto’s keepers, most keenly Charlotte, offer conversation, avidity, and kindness.

I’ve been taught.


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Tasty Pedagogy

Stuhlmuller Vineyards – 2014 Estate Chardonnay – Alexander Valley

A jazzy Chardonnay algorithm from a producer a bit hidden but once found you have that oeno-phantasmic revelation.  You sip and see something different in the Chardonnay character and story.  From the first sensory stroke, the fruit is clean, coherent and img_0904convincing; apple and pear, light paradiddles of apricot, nectarine.  And with the acidic current, every flavor phrase and conversation is augmented.  So narrative and wild, a Chardonnay that speak, truly speak, and isn’t concerned with what you experience has been.  And in such urgency you find universality, a branch to the butter crowd as well as the stainless.

Just as artful as the label, equally the naturalist splendor and visual ardor of the ground.  Comforting and arcadian with everything greeting you.  I’ve found that Chardonnay, as you may or may not know from my past columns, has a troubled relationship with me, for which I take full responsibility.  But there wasn’t that invitation, there was only and esoteric appeal of the wine’s immediate and inferred body.  As the bottle acclimated to ambient temp in the kitchen of my Autumn Walk Studio, the fruit exercised volition to morph its mold to something more pair-centered.  Everything else was still there, just a new steering voice delivered the bottled thesis.  I was ever more taken with what I was sipping.  I sat and thought and knew I had to visit, and maybe I will next week, my next day off—  This wine is a separation from reality, from the mundane and the patterned template of any varietal, but especially Chardonnay.  There speaks its instruction, its truest boon; the truth itself, Chardonnay’s truth and identity, and you’ll be coerced that there is amicable Chardonnay.  Not many this well-crafted, you should note.  And I review my notes form last night, right before putting the bottle back its frigid domicile: ‘beatific, centered, peripatetic (with how it travels about your receptors), devoted…” A bottle with life.  That reminds me to live, find my road, my own translations, and be vocal, narrative, tell my story.  My stories with wine this vastly prodigious.



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bottled thought

Be open to all wines; varietals and winemaking styles, regions and AVAs, sub-AVAs, all of it.  How else can you understand a story or an author if you don’t give the entire piece or body of work full consideration?  I last night sipped two Petite Sirahs and a grandiloquent Alexander Valley Cab-centered blend.  Two of my preferred types and producers, vintages and regions, conceded, but still it made me wonder what else is out there and what’s the next unknown I taste— the next enigma, mystery and riddle, palate puzzle, sipped cognition…


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Courte Pause

It’s healthy to break from wine, as you might conceptualize.  To just take a break, collect yourself, make your senses miss the wine or to just pause in the sip consistency.. come back to it later with a revitalized curiosity and connection.  I’m beginning one of those breaks, or hiatuses, and for what reason other than to devote more to writing, and yes to tease my senses with thoughts of wine and follow it with the tangible void, then to weeks, or months later return with that rumble, that eagerness to be with wine and sip and further consider what it is I sip.

This morning I woke remembering all the reds I last night tasted (going over the notes internally, hearing that speechy auditorium echo) and wondered who I’d be if I didn’t taste, if I just observed, and wrote?  So is the caesura entirely for the writing, I don’t know.  But I thought about it.  What if I just momentarily separated myself, for un peu, imagine how much sharper I’d be and how much more renewed and reinvented fervor I’d execute and later at this desk typing if I just didn’t sipped.  Wouldn’t everything be heightened?  Would I be LIKE a sommelier with laser perceptiveness and dare I say even a bit more expert with wine?  I’m with wine because I batten and burgeon about all its messages and stories, personalities and inconsistencies, quirks and galaxies…   I want to be a more cemented and present character for the wine itself.

And what would wine have to say, my elected varietals and regions, producers and winemaking teams?  I’m not sure I need to know as this comes from me in such Literary and journalistic movements, pray these sentences more sterling and my narrative and columns more robust and convincing— more alive!  So… I stop.  Just for a bit.

While waking this morning as well I thought of my wife and how during the nine months she carried both Jackie and now nearly 4 weeks present-on-Earth Emma she sipped nothing.  Not a drop.  Not even a nosing of a pour I had on the kitchen island-counter.   Nothing.  And then my inner analysis flew, “Could you do that?” Not sure, as how intense my devoutness to wine is.  But I have to try, in such bashfully tentative leasts, and for wine, for my writings about wine, for all the people I work with in wine’s orbit and material discipline.  Wine coerces and orders me to halt, separate and collect.  So I will.

Today I’ll be in a Healdsburg tasting room, just off the square on Plaza Street, and if I don’t sip a single drop of Glenn’s reds I see my elucidations and vocalized personifications of the wines more appealing, more vivid and voltaged.  Then, I’ll sell more (which IS the goal.. and not just for Glenn’s business but for my wined role and pages).

This break will not tarnish my fealty.

I’m still with wine.

I just need time.  To be better for IT.

The wine.

And after tolerable time, I’ll again tilt a bowl toward my soul.

And write about it.



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Project A

Again reminding Self of the goal of this project, to write with every free second I have, and it makes me realize how my free time, my free seconds and nanoseconds have diminished since Emma’s birth.  And of course no blame and no spite toward my wee beat priestess, just something I’m realizing. Finished heating dinner for Alice and I, she upstairs laying with little Kerouac till his sleep overtakes his eyelids, and me waiting for her to descend down the stairs.  Free seconds… and no word goal, but just to sit and collect, write a bit.  And obviously ‘Project A’ will extend into 2017.. wow, ‘2017’.  So futuristic-sounding.  Not sure what I’m saying now, envisioning my travels with wine, and my future wine shop/wine bar.. but I need money for that.  Goddamn money.. always the issue, with everything, and I — stop.  I’ll have it.. no stress.  Not tonight.  Not with my daughter in the next room.  Only Zen.  Wined Zen.  I’ll open a gorilla red tomorrow night, more than likely a Lancaster, see such being poured in my wine shop/bar, doing tastings.. need to study every inch of the business, and I have been closely for the last three or four years, really since working at Lancaster after the box let me go, and thank the Craft they did.. wow, that was 1/20-something, 2012, nearly 4 years ago.  And I remember, that was right before Kerouac was born, getting laid off, and I was not in a good place; mentally, financially, Literarily, nothing.  And now, I must say, the writer’s much stronger.  This ADJUNCT warrior professor is ready for every-and-any-thing.

My wine shop/bar has a focus.  The consumer.  But what wine type?  I guess Bordeauxs, right?  Think Alice fell asleep upstairs.  Good for her.  She needs time with Kerouac and some rest, some quiet time after being on ‘Ms. Austen duty’ all day.

Could use another sip of the beer I opened…  so a break for this typer, penning pugilist.  Need to find some new words tonight.. everything I’m writing right now I hate, but the goal is to just keep writing, stay in the chair as I tell the students.. all4blog— narrative— expository quake—

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a writer: post 021

Should be working on an article right now but I’m being quite the manuscript malefactor, sipping Merlot and freewriting.  Alarm set for— no, no hexing my aim.  On the night: no rain, not so cold outside.. if I were in some hotel on the Road, an overnight, the night before a lecture, I’d be out on patio, sipping this ’12, looking at fading thin clouds pass under stars in admiration of them as I am.  Still can’t believe Fall semester is over— and how I survived I’m not sure but these next two sections I lecture…   Interesting, again I find time, how it just passes and now it passes even ever-quicker with Emma here, carnivorous and plainly cruel.  Have to act out of character, away from the template even the one I’ve set for myself, just act, and write, and target whom and whatever I want, in wine’s industry, on the Napa side, in politics (mainly elephant pukes), and whatever else.  Oh this Sanglier Merlot, just emboldening me to get closer to my label and everything I want to do.  In such introspection, or better objective character analysis, I’ve been fearful of several things: rejection, altercation, doubt by others, and moving from place to place as so many in the wine industry do (and anyone who fails to recognize this pattern is just a mental wart puppy; ignorance and inanimate, like one of the many, in the segmented and inept family, family members of the last winery I “worked” at).  Humorous but I won’t give them any more page.  I’m going to write what I wish, like.. this Merlot wants me to, the varietal I started with, telling me to come back, go make my wine, do something crazy, out of character— watched some commentary tonight on the “townhall” talk with Obama, so many of the journalists and pundits and experts, just talking with enflamed vocality and judging, as if they would do so much more.  IF they were qualified to be in office.. and if I’m in the wrong for saying such, then they commit the thought fallacy of allowing sentiment to trounce sensibility.  The relishable artifact of logical fallacy.

Traveling.. what will get me traveling?  All writers should think how their writing will get them wherever their objective is, that geographic habit, envisage.. and me, writing about politics, more than wine, reducing wine to no more than a hobby— as many of these wine “writers” and “experts”, or “journalists”, present themselves further in disfavor than the politicos I saw this evening on TV.  Now, I respect them as authorities, but their ideas’ delivery was too rushes and saturated in increased heart BPM.  I’m rambling I know but I know what I’m saying, and sometimes, oftentimes, as a writer that’s all that keeps concern, is of any consequence.

So I’m on the Road, in a hotel after attending an event for a Republican candidate, in my room and with a bottle of Merlot, a ’10, on the East Coast somewhere and looking through my notes.  My article, or blog post, due by tomorrow morning at 9, PST.  I just think about where I am, can’t bring myself to type what I noted in that little book, but only write with free wheels, speeding to the page’s bottom line sets.

But I’m in my home.  Hearing my daughter hiccup in the other room, frustrated with herself and how her own body behaves, how she can’t control it.  I dream of the Road, still, finish my Merlot, feel a mood fall over me, down like a tight sock.


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Just Wanted Wine

So much when you write about wine, or concede you’re drinking it, you have to cite and stipulate specifics.  But tonight I’m refusing to do so, I’m just drinking wine to drink it.  And frankly, it’s not that good.  One of the bazillion tasting rooms in Kenwood, one of them that I stopped by one day ‘cause I was bored, on my way back from Fairfield, teaching.  Sipped again, and yeah there’s something off about it— but I still sip.  Why not.  It’s raining outside, my wife’s asleep on the couch and my little daughter, 3 weeks old tomorrow, as well sleeps.  And I’m the writer who just rose from the couch, form another “Law & Order: SVU” rerun and made himself write.  To this Merlot.  Growlingly, I refuse to name any specifics.  And why…  I don’t need to.  And they say, “Watch what you say, it’s a small industry, you don’t want to burn any bridges, bla bla…”  The wine industry is full of this, this passive and conveniently removed intimidation.  Oh I’ll abide, I’ll conform, but the industry needs reform.  Just not tonight, I’m sipping, I’m enjoying my flawed wine, not letting any of the industry’s contagions in.

When I first entered the wine business, or “the industry” as so many of them call it with that putrid elevating octave, I poured in a tasting room.  Then I went to another.  Then another.  Another another another…  That’s what wine industry most immediately and colorfully sees; loyalty lack, and rampant at that.  There’s a specific for you, even more flawed than what I sip: the industry itself.  Even the tourists notice, one long ago saying to me, “So, it seems like so many move around place to place, is that common?” And what do I say but something evading like, “I don’t know, you know…” But not in my house, not tonight, not with my wife and daughter sleeping in the nearest room.  I’m enjoying my wine, it’s wine, my wine right now and I don’t care how much “brett” it has (and that’s definitely the flaw, in concert with uneven acid and fruit composition).  But I’m not a critic, or judge, certainly not one of those ill-nurtured skainsmate sommeliers.  Just a wine chaser, lover, sipper and drinker and writer (and often writing while drinking, but that’s the wine giving me less flaw, gifting me with more character truth).

It’s late, and I should be asleep like them, but I had to come to the office and put the glass to the right of the keyboard as I always elect; a wined pattern stretching years, even back to when I lived in that San Ramon apartment when I would tarriance at the (I think) Albertson’s down Crow Canyon toward 680.  And I’d buy whatever bargain bottle I could gently drop into that plastic basket, thinking I was quite the “wine guy”, much why I hate people especially those daring call themselves bloggers or even more repugnant ‘writers’ with “the Wine Guy” after their name.

So here’s precision for you, reader: I’m drinking wine.  Writing.  And I’m quite calm in my simplistic quietude.  So rate, or throw some score at, that…..


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MOCK SOMM:  2012 Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Pastorale Vineyard

  Animated, brilliant, a subtext of a dominantly pervasive message of Burgundian woo.  Surprisingly dark, convincing but still gentle, convivial— a delicious Sonoma Coast dote.  I’d been meaning to open this bottle for a while, since I visited JPV at the Silverado Trail fort toward the end of Fall semester.  But last night it forcefully beckoned, charmed, spoke and sung with its alchemically flavorous wings and wrapped me in spells of phenolic Equilibrium and sensory order.  I wasn’t shocked that I loved it as I did, leaving half the bottle for the next night, tonight (1/3/16), to see how it’ll evolve, develop and compound with identity and conviction; its textual and deliciously suggestive rhetoric— rich and precise intentions, layered and cosmic, right after cork removal…..

More communicative than most Pinots I’ve recently met, and again I sipped it first during my visit a couple months ago.  But it speaks, it commands more now, it remembers me— and the hue is surprisingly deep and radiant, quixotic, it teaches and humbly so.. soft palate music and artful notes from palate’s front to back.  Prior, on nose, violet and plush plum and dark cherry— a reserved vanilla drumroll, tremolo.  This Pinot is precisely and  

 poignantly what I mean when I cite the musical, notably jazz, dimensions of wine, especially Pinot.  It recites then hides then you chase it to the next sip hoping for the music to come back and when it does you sip slow, and the small placements of the bottle’s contents to echo, Zen reverb and angularity— the wine’s meditation with you sits; no time, no place, just the amalgamation of you and the ’12 Sonoma Coast world— the fog, the subtlety, the salty oceanic mist and phantasmic motions, ghostly enveloping mise en scène.

Tonight I’ll intersect with the remaining sips, jot my reflective trots.  And with thanks to the producer, the estate, winemaker and team and the fact I visited when I did.

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