Evil Plea: Please Don’t Buy Your Wine Where You Buy Your Toilet Paper

Where you buy your wine says just as much about you as what you buy.

My resolution for 2012 was to dedicate my blog to the exploration and better personal understanding of domestic wine. I’m going to expand on that idea by spouting off a bit with my two cents about wine retail in this country. Now, allow me to step off my real wine soap box for just a second. I don’t give a shit what you drink. You can drink whatever you want, it ultimately doesn’t affect me as much as my vitriolic bite might make it seem. I don’t care if you don’t want to try new grape varieties, styles, or appellations. In the end, what wines you decide to drink have little effect on me. Your money, your palate, your decision. However, where you decide to buy these wines does. Now allow me to step up onto to my small wine shop around the corner soap box.

Wine shops do exist, sometimes you have to search a bit, other times they’re right around the corner especially if you live in a populated, urban setting. The folks that are running these establishments do it because they’re passionate about wine, if they wanted to make sweaty wads of cash they’d just sell stock and bonds, or crack cocaine. It’s a labor of love that we as wine drinkers should have a vested interest in supporting. As enticing as it is to carry out one stop shopping, a wine shop will almost always have better selection, price, and first and foremost, actual wine expertise. Yes, knowledge is something that cannot be bought and sold, only learned through experience. This experience comes from the shop proprietors and their staff having constant contact with their industry, from the wine reps continually exposing the staff to tasting samples from the far-flung corners of the globe, to the onslaught of trade events.

Costco has some damn good prices on wine and a decent, although somewhat limited selection. They also have underwear, televisions, and diapers. At times they employ a wine steward who may even have some sort of wine education. I also know that they do care about the wine industry. I know they have made some inroads in legislature that has benefitted the smaller wine merchants. I also know that your local wine shop does not sell toilet paper or DVDs. They do not offer any other intangibles or services to their customers to fall back on other than wine and wine knowledge.

I know, Bevmo will give you an additional bottle of wine for an extra five cents, and that is very nice of them, but they’re a corporation that sells a lot of booze, and are basically a glorified liquor store that sells more charcoal, and kegs of Coors Light than they do wine.

Grocery stores? Don’t even get me started. It’s where I buy my kids boxes of Count Chocula, and most of the wines they sell there are as interesting and complex as a bowl Reese’s Puffs(no disrespect, I love this cereal)

One of the greatest advantages of buying from your local wine shop is this; the people in these shops might be able to understand and interpret  your palate more articulately that you can. Once you begin to form a relationship with a good wine shop, these people will know as soon as you walk in the door what they may have recently brought in for stock that fits your palate profile. They will know what wines they can introduce you to that might be outside of the norm for you. The can assist you in any wine odyssey you may be considering embarking on. You know very little about Tokaji? Well there’s only one bottle of it on the shelf at Costco and probably none at a grocery store, and without doubt, no one in sight who has even a clue as to what Tokaji is, how it’s made, and why it is so relevant and vital to the wine world even after centuries. Your local wine shop can help you get your feet wet.

My family is from a small village in Gipuzkoa, Euskadi called Gaztaintxabal. When you purchase wine, you head down to the vinoteca, Where a gruff old man wearing a txapela named Txetxu will only ask you three questions; Zuria (white), Beltza (literally black, but means red with wine), or Arrosa (pink). You may think that Txetxu isn’t giving you many options, you might like to peruse around the shop on your own, the thing is Txetxu knows you, you’re his customer. He is well aware that on Sundays you have Bacalao al Pil Pil as a religion. He already has a bottle picked out for you, because he knew you were already coming down to the shop. You do not question Txetxu.

This is what a wine shop is to me, and why I’m so glad to be part of the familiar dynamic that these small but personal merchants present. These are the sensations and experiences you can’t get from a place with a membership card or a shopping cart the size of an SUV.


The Evil Resolution: Self-deprecation 2012; After over a decade of hating on American wine, I’ll spend a year trying to prove myself wrong

As 2011 comes to a close, and 2012 arrives, I find wine writers are reflecting on this years’ wines, as they should be. Reflection shines a light on the path one must take moving forward. It helps us to see the past errors, and also the successes. I have been drinking wine over fifteen years now, I will tell you honestly it has been a somewhat myopic journey. I drink 99.9% European wines with a very heavy focus on France. I’m not ashamed. There’s nothing wrong with drinking only what interests you. There’s a myriad of different wine styles, and grape varieties that one could keep occupied for a lifetime just in Europe alone. I have constantly pushed myself into these tiny, far-flung corners of Europe trying to track down the unearthed hidden gems of  the wine world. I’ve had a blast doing it to. I don’t know how many varieties I’ve tried, but I can imagine it is well over one hundred.

I was raised in a European household, lived a large chunk of time in Europe, and as a first generation American, I can honestly say I know relatively little about American wine. Even early on in my wine education, I was quick to move through American wines. I’ll be the first to admit that for years I have been overly dismissive of American wines, so I’m making my New Year’s Resolution this: In 2012 I will dedicate my blog to my exploration of American(U.S.) wine. My promise is to dedicate this blog to a year of domestic wine exploration. Call it an American wine odyssey through the eyes of a European palate. I’m going to continue to search out wines that express a “sense of place”. I will insist on wines with balance, and moderate to low alcohol levels. I will still look for wines with more acidity that what most prefer, and the wines that I come across that I believe to be inferior will still be called-out, like always. I’m conscience of the fact that I’m not going to find wines that are carbon copies of European wine. but what I’m hoping to discover for myself is that American wine can express itself just as purely and honestly as its European counterpart. I also promise to continue to search out the lesser known wines.  This is going to be hard work, I’m going to need some help from my friends. You know who you are. I’m going to pick your brain, ask you stupid questions, and irritate the hell out of you. The funny thing is that I have so many friends in the California wine industry, and for years I have shunned or at the very least showed very little interest in what they’re trying to accomplish. I’m ready to learn.

I can imagine what the few who read my blog are thinking; this isn’t all that brave, interesting, or even thought-provoking. Many are going to call me naive or much worse for making this my pathetic resolution, and also for being so close minded for so long. Maybe they’re right, but for me this is as personal as it gets. I’m driven to break down the walls of my previous prejudices, and challenging myself to what would have been unthinkable years ago. In order to grow at times you need to shed your skin. I’m prepared to do so. Recently I challenged wine bloggers to dig deeper. To produce more engaging material, I’m not exempt from my own criticism. I will do what I can to live up to my own critique.

I will still be on the lookout for the alternative varieties A.K.A. B Team wines. I drink a lot of Champagne, and Rosé, so you can bet that finding suitable replacements will be on the top of my list too. My 2012 New Year’s Resolution is a promise to myself, and to you. To continue to evolve. Challenge accepted

The Wine Blogger Dilemma

If you’ve casually frequented this nascent blog, you may have already read my manifesto, and you undoubtedly know that when it comes to wine, I write with emotion, and piss and vinegar, but above all, honesty and integrity are my only journalistic luminaries. Outside of writing my own blog, I take a good amount of time checking in on what other wine bloggers are up to. The few wine blogs I enjoy are usually the more personal ones, the ones that are more based on candor, journalism, and/or a select focus. These are the blogs that inspire true wine writing zeal in me. I get more of my wine information from these blogs than I do any print magazine.  Then there are blogs that I don’t quite understand. blah wine blogging, who’s only real purpose is to offer up a sordid version of Wine Spectator or Wine Advocate, while at the same time constantly getting in pointless jabs at those mags, and endlessly(and unsuccessfully) trying to smite them. Although they do so almost unconscious to the fact that they are completely imitating them. You get samples, you review them. You score them. Yeah, I’ve seen this before. Other than receiving copious amounts of gratuitous wine, and reviewing them in your oh-so original Parkeresque manner, what is your actual purpose? What is the void you believe that you’re filling? This piece has not been penned to arouse angst. I just really want answers, because from my vantage point, aside from serving as an outlet for your musings about wine, what qualifies you? Now, to those wine bloggers who are transparent about their writing, and honestly say, that “hey, I don’t know shit about wine, but I wanna learn, so read my blog, and let’s share this ride together” I respect the shit out of you. You are for real. And to those bloggers who are bona fide wine educators and experts, or who have spent decades studying the subject of wine, especially in regards to one specific field of interest, your expertise, and willingness to share such knowledge is greatly appreciated.

I taste maybe 100-150 wines a month some months much more. Mathematically speaking, I think 3 are good and maybe 2 are really good, and maybe 1 will be great. Those are not good numbers, and anyone who tells you that wine quality is really high nowadays might actually be high themselves, because  it’s not. The consistency of wine homogeneity is high. Not quality. However if you read a lot of the blogs out there, one begins to wonder, “where are all of the bad reviews?” I see some of the shit these bloggers get sent, and most of it wouldn’t be fit for a doorstop in my house, and yet I see them, not only take the high road and avoid negative statements, but basically recommend said wine. Most of these types of bloggers defend themselves by saying that “just because it isn’t my style doesn’t mean I should blast it…uh, what? It shouldn’t? What do I need you for then? Pretty much what you are saying is that “even shit wine will be good to someone, so who am I to discourage a neophyte wine drinker?” Just because the samples you’re receiving are not to your liking, doesn’t mean you should try to sell people on them just to maintain the flow of free wine. Put the bullshit on blast. You’ve got to be honest with your readers.

You cannot prattle on about you disdain for high alcohol, fruit forward, oak monsters, and then recommend to your readers a 15.8% ABV Australian Shiraz, stating “it is well made, if you like big and bold, go out and buy it, even though I wouldn’t”. Your readers want to know your palate. Originality is your best weapon. You’re unique, and so is your palate. If you can define and explain your palate to your reader, then they know what to expect when you recommend something.  You will gain their trust. If they do not agree with you, they can move on to the next blogger with a palate more similar to their own, but you just cannot cater to everyone and still be genuine. It is impossible. If you’re going to go around promoting yourself as a wine guru(and that is exactly what you’re proclaiming whether you like it or not, the second you start reviewing and recommending wine), then you better be ready and able to educate people on what you believe a wine should be, you better be prepared to tell people what they like is actually a manipulation of grape juice, and a laboratory experiment above all else. I take pride in the fact that when I think a wine is fucking good, I say it, and I mean it. This doesn’t happen very often. Some people don’t enjoy such vitriolic style of writing , but you can count on the fact that when I do not like something you’ll be the first to know, because I will be screaming it from a fucking rooftop.

This all ties into my feeling on points. Why do wine bloggers feel the need to award points to wines like the “Big Brother” mags do?  I could elaborate on my feelings about the subject, however, that is an article for another day. I’ll leave my statement in brevity at this; go drink some fucking wine. Drink some things that are outside your proverbial “comfort zone” of wines. The more you taste and challenge your palate, the more self-sufficient of a taster you will be. Listen aspiring wine writers, wine is too multi-faceted to be reduced down to a number, but if you must continue your ambivalence haine-amour relationship with the wine rags, be my guest. To the few enlightened souls who see wine as a personal communion more meaningful than any number, I invite you to join us at http://scorevolt.com/

The time has arrived for some new blood, for a revolution in wine journalism. Continuing the status quo is fucking chicken shit, and you know it. Put your true feeling down on paper, give me some passion, give me some anger, give me some acrimonious speech, but also, give me some insight. Show me a region or variety I might not know about, or that you may have a special attachment to. Tell me about the producers, but do your homework. Be absolutely positive that you aren’t misinforming, or misleading your readers. Write us an article on native yeast, or cold soaking, or heavy-ass deep punted bottles, or even fucking corks. We don’t care so long as the fire is present. So long as your writing bleeds with integrity and morality, because that is what’s paramount. Tell the people what is wrong with the industry or a particular producer, or whatever it is that is abets and provokes you to borderline irrationality. Your readers want to hear it, because they can get kiss ass wine writing anywhere, right?

P.S. I really piggybacked this incredibly thought-provoking piece from a writer I hold in very high regard: The Passionate Foodie  This article really got me thinking about how important and impacting a wine writers’ suggestions can be. Please read his blog.

Wine Biz Bad Asses Symposium: Napa Cab

The annual Wine Biz Bad Asses Symposium is a fictitious annual event bringing together 3 of the world’s greatest wine writers, and also Steve Heimoff. This year Steve, Robert Parker Jr. Jancis Robinson, and James Suckling tasted and discussed the Cabernet Sauvignon of Napa Valley, California, a region whose recent vintages have been celebrated as examples of the most austere, rustic, and age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignons in the world. The 3 wines tasted; all classic examples of Napa Valley terroir, are benchmarks of the region, and the variety.

2007 Opus One

Robert Parker Jr: This wine represents how awesome of an affect I’ve had on wine “engineering”. A wine “engineered” to exactly my liking, It tastes of splinters, and Luden’s cherry flavored cough drops, and is as big, round, and robust as Kim Kardashian’s badonkadonk . A stunner. Kudos Opus, kudos.

Steve Heimoff: Is this Russian River Valley?

Moderator: No Steve, they’re all Napa

Steve Heimoff: Oh, did I mention I know a Shit-ton about Russian River Valley?

James Suckling: 94 Points!

Moderator: Would you like to elaborate Mr. Suckling?

James Suckling: I’m 94 points on this, that is all.

Jancis Robinson: I’ve sampled plonk topper from Bordeaux Supérieur that tasted better.

2008 Caymus Special Edition

James Suckling: I’m 98 points on this one!

Moderator: Anything else Mr. Suckling?

James Suckling: Yeah, I really like this one…so….BOOOM! 98 points!

Jancis Robinson: This is almost worthy enough of being topper for the Opus One.

Steve Heimoff: When are we getting to the Russian River stuff? Thing is, I know a shitload about that place. I wrote a book.

Robert Parker Jr: Caymus is a perfect example of everything that is right with my influence on Napa. I hope Antonio(Galloni) doesn’t go over there and fuck up all of this high alcohol, oaked-up awesomeness that my points, and I have inspired.

2008 Orin Swift Mercury Head

Robert Parker Jr: Another example of how my palate has changed the wine-drinking world for the good. Because of moi, you no longer need to cellar AN-Y-THING. This wine is drinkable right now, and will improve greatly of the next 2-3 weeks. Drink now or hold let’s say…..2-3 weeks.

Steve Heimoff: Worst Russian River Pinot EVER.

Jancis Robinson: This wine reminds me of something, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, oh wait a tick there it is, stuck fermentation topper.

James Suckling: This thing kinda sucks so, BOOM! 93 points.

Moderator: Mr. Suckling, it sucks but you award it 93 points?

James Suckling: Yeah. It was my least favorite so I gave it the lowest score….duh.

At this moment in the tasting Dave Phinney of Orin Swift Cellars sprints up to the podium, and proclaims “I have something to say, that was not actually Mercury Head”  The room goes silent,  Phinney continues, “Mercury Head is extremely popular and we ran out of juice, so I pulled a Schild and I sourced the closest substitute I could find. what was in your glasses was actually this

(The Wine Biz Bad Ass Symposium doesn’t actually exist, the events described here never took place)

How to build a Phallic Wine Cellar

Priapus, the Greek mythological god and protector of the male genitalia was known for his humorously over-sized permanent erection. He would later become the envy of modern man. Today the Phallus and Phallic symbols are all around us, the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., The Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the Cod pieces of Alex and his Droogs in the movie Clockwork Orange. Man is always trying to find ways to…ahem, enlarge, broaden, elongate, and make up for his preconceived lack of well…dick. This ancient obsession with grandeur extends into all phases of one’s life, even his cellar. Yes, even your cellar can be phallic. As a worker drone in the wine industry people always ask me “how can I design a really bad ass cellar?” What they really mean is: How can I make my cellar an extension of my cock? Well, it’s really not that hard(TWSS) Let’s begin.

Tip : In order to truly create the ultimate phallic cellar you’re going to need points, and what I mean by points is, Wine Spectator/Wine Advocate points. Try and buy only based on points. It’s easier this way. C’mon! You’re building a fucking cellar here, you needn’t waste a moment of your precious time at boring tastings trying to develop your palate and learn about wine. All the work has already been done for you by these magazine wine journalist geniuses. The only caveat is that points cost cash, but cash you’ve got so, no biggie.

2009 Saxum James Berry Vineyard Paso Robles, California $550

Ah yes, and speaking of points, we have here the all-time points beast of Paso Robles. Saxum. A consistent 99 point wine regardless of vintage. You cannot go wrong with Saxum when designing your phallic cellar. First off it has legs! Lots of them, and my are they long. 16% ABV long. You see, alcohol is to wine what fat is to Kobe beef, flavor! Your cellar is gonna need this flavor. The current waiting list is lengthy 8====> and these wines are very, very hard <====8 to track down, and when you do you’ll be paying  $500+I know places where you can adopt a kid, buy a vital organ, and get a hand job for less.

Sine Qua Non Sixteen B20 in my Head of the Naked Truth from my Ventriloquist of Atlantis Fe, Somewhere in California

Re-read Saxum…..but add an extra $100 to each bottle because SQN uses weird-ass bottles and have wax capsules, and those cost more.

2007 Screaming Eagle, Napa California $2.500

Why the Chinese nouveau riche have yet to jump on the Screaming Eagle bandwagon is beyond me. You would think that a small production cult wine would be calling out: 8====> …oh well…their loss. More for you, and your wide, girthy, and large, yes large cellar.

2010 Château Lafite-Rothschild Bordeaux Futures $1.600

You will have to shank some rich ass Chinese guy named Dong to even get a whiff of this shit.

Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne $200

You will have to shank some crazy ass rapper called:(rapper name goes here) to even get a whiff of this shit.

2009 Kosta-Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast $100

BOOM! This Pinot ain’t your Papás Pinot. It’s got balls…and…and..It’s got points…..95 of ’em and some big phallic-like awards too. Hmmm…Scratch the Kosta-Browne, I have an idea: $2 6-pack of Coke+$20 bottle of Jack=a savings of……….a major disappointment if you like real Pinot Noir.

2008 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti Grand Cru  $10.000

This fucking wine, this mother……I have nothing bad to say.

Candy Ass Holiday Wines 101

Hello everyone, and happy fucking holidays! Tis’ the season to invite your intrusive neighbors, odious co-workers and estranged family members over for wildly unamusing, laborious holiday cheer! Since most of your colleagues are twits when it comes to wine, you’re going to have to dig deep, dumb down your palate and pull some serious bullshit donkey piss out of your ass in order to keep your guests lubed-up, and joyful. This can be harder than you think. Years of palate training must be brushed aside in order to make such selections. I’m doing you a solid, taking one for the team, and compiling the must have holiday party wine list.

Any wine from Owen Roe, Washington, Oregon, wherever

Owen Roe Winery makes it easy on the consumer, they make wine with flashy packaging and market themselves as sort of a luxury brand at an affordable price. The entire line of wines has a certain uniformity to it that is downright detestable. Every single offering tastes like the next regardless of what variety is in it, and what vineyard the fruit was sourced from. It is so bland, and characterless it reminds me a lot of John Kerry. The good news is, you friends will be sold on the artsy-fartsy label.

Sanford Vin Gris, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA

You cannot impress your friends serving them white zin from a box, but you’ll need to have a Rosé on hand, so you’re gonna need Sanford Vin Gris. This wine’s just about as appetizing as peach Schnapps and, what a shocker, it tastes a lot like it too. A liqueur like liquid hiding behind a wine bottle, Sanford Vin Gris is loaded with alcohol, sugar and a grip of other beneficial nutrients, plus it’s Sanford, so any tool who has seen Sideways will recognize it, and assume you’ve got great taste.

2009 Alto Moncayo, Campo de Borja Spain

Gotta get my last Jay Miller licks in while I still can, so here goes…ahem…Alto Moncayo. A glorious effort, a flawless example of 16% ABV Garnacha that will not age well, tastes like a cherry Blow Pop, and will never complement any food, unless you’re drinking it while licking a strawberry Jolly Rancher off a stripper’s nipple in Tijuana(this may or may not have been an actual event). It is the ultimate Phallic Spanish Garnacha. A must have in the collection of any Phallic wine collector.

Orin Swift Prisoner California

Cocktailium Wineus Maximus is the Latin variety name for the strain of Zinfandel used to make this bodaciously barbaric cocktail of a fucking wine. A brutally crafted “blend” that includes some other varieties that loosely resemble grapes. Higher da brix da better! Extract that baby, you can always water back later(or not). These are the steps to making some bold ass wine-like concoction. It will put hair on your scrotum, make you a man. Rich, savory, oaky, hooray! Crowd pleaser wine for sure. Comes complete with the heaviest-ass fucking bottle in the industry just in case someone gets out of hand, and no shanks or shivs are accessible.

NV Freixenet Cordón Negro Penedès  Spain

It’s a damn holiday fiesta so you have to provide bubbles. You remember those Miller High Life spots that declared their beer the “Champagne” of Beers? Fucking fraudulent, right? Yeah, well Freixenet is the Miller High Life of Cava. Bogus shit bubbles that equate to Catalán calf urine. In fact,  I’d prefer that someone pissed on me instead….bring in R. Kelly, and tell him stay away from my eyes.

Wine Marketing 101

The Wine business is a tough business. Trying to produce and sell a wine in a competitive market and see it develop into a viable commodity is a very difficult task these days, and there’s plenty of competition. Yet some find the winning combination, either by way of brilliant and consistent wine making like Krug, DRC, and Lafite, or by way of shear media Hype I.E. Saxum, and SQN. Yet others do it by making shit wine that appeal to masses like Orin Swift, Silver Oak, and Rombauer. Instead of wasting millions on advertising, I have devised a simple yet effective solution: Get that bottle into the Hip Hop Nation mainstream. Listen to me Baby Boomers, I understand that you don’t have a fucking clue what these fools are saying, and the whole thing really scares the shit out of you. But let’s be honest, this is capitalist piggy country so we’ve gotta sell this shit, and sometimes you have to put your morals and better judgement aside. Now, let me show you how to slang some juice.


Moscato is used in a myriad of wines and styles, from Asti Spumante to Brandy.  It is grown all over the world and is known by many synonyms. It is one slut of a variety. You’d think that this unassuming grape would never shine on its own, but thanks to Hip Hop, Moscato has been thrust into the limelight of the mainstream

Before this song, most of the enologically challenged had no fucking clue what Moscato was. Waka Flocka, Wale, and Roscoe Dash made Moscato blow up.


Louis Roederer’s Cristal was ballin’ long before Hip Hop took a liking to this cellophane wrapped Champagne.  In an interview with The Economist in 2006, Louis Roederer managing director Frederic Rouzaud said he viewed the attention from Hip-Hop artists with “curiosity and serenity.” Asked if he thought the association would harm the brand, he replied, “that’s a good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business. Subsequent interpretations and reactions to these statements resulted in the brand’s loss of position in hip-hop culture. Cristal went from being the rappers default to being discarded. Jay-Z releasing a statement saying he would never ‘drink Cristal. Either way, Cristal benefited from all of the Hip Hop publicity.

This track probably contains the first ever-known Cristal reference in Hip-Hop history

The video that made “Cris” the drank in yo cup. Props for not using a flute.

Armand de Brignac

What do you do when you’re just too baller for Cristal. You drink Armand de Brignac. Famous for its ace of spades label and metallic  bottle, nobody in the world actually drinks it besides Jay-Z, and yet it is still one of the most recognizable bottles of wine in the world. GO FUCKING FIGURE.

I came up with a few dream scenarios for us to ponder:

Lil’ Wayne and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

Let’s take the most marketable face in the Hip Hop game right now, and team him up with easily the biggest bad ass of Burgundy. Can you imagine the look of horror and disbelief on wine snobs’ faces when they see a clip of Lil’ Wayne and the Young Money Militia pouring out a full bottle of DRC Richebourg for the homies? Priceless.

Kanye West and Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé

Rosé doesn’t get much love from the Hip Hop community, and even a lot of uncouth wine drinkers consider it to be “gay”, so a link-up with The Gay Fish would be marketing gold. Bad Ass music producer/rapper+dope Rosé=Genius

Wu-Tang Clan and Château Pétrus Pomerol Bordeaux

One of the greatest marketing Hip Hop collectives ever hook-up with vintage of the century(every vintage apparently) Château Pétrus. I’m 100 points on that.


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