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Rackin’ ‘n’ Rollin’: Wine Racks for All Occasions

1 Apr

If you’re a student like me, chances are that you don’t normally purchase bottles of wine to cellar. Most of the bottles of wine you purchase are probably meant for immediate or short-term consumption. Indeed, most of the bottles are probably not meant for aging, anyway, and even if they are the lack of a proper climate-controlled environment makes it downright dangerous to try storing wine for extended periods of time.

Thus, I store my wine in cardboard boxes that have been turned sideways. It’s not the prettiest sight, but they’re stacked in one of my hallway closets where they are kept from light and heat. It’s also an approach that the wine writer Karen MacNeil uses for her own cellar, apparently.

However, wine storage does not have to be purely practical. Indeed, wine bottles can be stored in a way that is not only aesthetically pleasing but can actually be considered art.

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I’m Contributing to the Palate Press!

8 Mar

I’ve come to a sort of crossroads in my wine blogging journey.  The choice as I saw it was between getting more serious about it, or letting it go.  Letting it go would be an attractive option, especially because I’ve been concerned about my health, the quality of my legal scholarship, and my finances.  However, in the end I could not give this up, not after 100 posts and the time and effort I put into maintaining it.

Although my recent lack of posting might indicate that I’m not serious about my resolution, it is more indicative of law school craziness than any lack of discipline.  And, like a patient lover, my wine blog waits for me to return after a few weeks of neglect.

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Prediction: California’s 2009 Vintage Will Be A Hot Mess

11 Feb

This according to the Los Angeles Times.  I’d be interested to see how the 2009 vintage turns out, however.  I am predicting it will produce two broad types of wine: a HUGE volume of swill and a large volume of super-sized alcohol bombs.

The article states the following:

For consumers, the year’s bounty is expected to bring more availability and cheaper prices for all types of California wine, particularly premium and ultra-premium wines.

But I don’t see how this is possible.  Premium and ultra-premium wines?  It is an immutable truth of winemaking that lower yields mean better wines.  Fewer grapes mean that a vine will focus its energy on whatever fruit it has, which is why (fine) winemakers everywhere prune, prune, prune like crazy.  This leads to more concentrated, intense grapes, which in turn lead to better wine.

This is what Kermit Lynch had to say about it in his fantastic book, Adventures on the Wine Route:

When his crop yields 40 hectoliters to the hectare (4,000 liters per hectare, or 2,200 bottles per acre), Paul [Tardieu] says he is satisfied.  For a cheap vin de pays it is a drastically minuscule production.  In an abundant year such as 1979, the Meursault vineyards in Burgundy yield twice as much juice per acre and the wine sells for five to six times the price of [Tardieu’s].

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100th Post on Vinicultured!

1 Feb

There are many different reasons for why one does anything, reasons that may be small and large, significant and trivial, obvious and perhaps unknowable even to oneself.  Certainly, there are many reasons one decides to write a wine blog.  Learning how to budget was not one of them, but there were things like wanting to learn more about wine, wanting to practice how to write, and wanting to become part of a community.  I loved drinking wine; I loved talking about it, and I loved the culture and ceremony around this most noble of beverages.

But of course, there are still other reasons.

My first post is dated December 23, 2007.  2007 was a very tough year for me and innumerable others.  We lost a wonderful friend that June, and this world lost out on an incredibly talented, beautiful, and giving young woman.

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An Exposition on Riedel Glasses

11 Dec
I. Introduction
If you’re reading this blog you’ve probably seen or at least heard of the movie Sideways, which chronicles the last hurrah journey of two friends through the Santa Ynez Valley.  It is filled with fine wine, boozing, women, and other misadventures.  One of the sadder scenes is when Miles, the protagonist, drinks a bottle of his prized ’61 Cheval Blanc alone with a foam fast-food restaurant cup.

Having been in a fraternity, I’ve imbibed from many different sorts of containers: mugs, plastic cups, boxes, the bosom of life.  At the time, I was proud of my set of four Crate and Barrel wineglasses (price: $3.99 each), into which I’d pour only the finest Yellowtail Shiraz and Merlot.

What a difference a few years make.

II. Riedel glassware is awesome.

Drink wine long enough and you’ll eventually come across mention of Riedel stemware.  Riedel has been in the business of glassmaking for eleven generations, so they’ve not only had time to perfect what they’re doing, they’ve had the time to come up with a whole host of awesome crystal products.

Drinking out of a Riedel glass elevates the wine experience for at least two reasons.  First: they’re simply beautiful and well-designed glasses, period.  Most of their lines—including the affordable machine-made Vinum series—are made of lead crystal, which classes up any drinking situation.  They’re well-weighted and feel good in the hand.  Their lips are thin, which avoids the problem some glasses have where it feels like you’re drinking wine from a coffee mug.  And, they are simple and elegant.

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Book Review: “Drink This: Wine Made Simple” by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl

22 Nov

My roommate Alex just finished an ultramarathon–the JFK 50 Miler–yesterday, coming in 41st out of 1050 competitors.  (Congrats, Alex!)  Needless to say, he’s pretty intense when it comes to running.  He subscribes to running magazines, plots out his training schedule months in advance, and reads books upon books on marathoning.

I harbor no similar aspirations of athletic greatness, but I do read a lot on my own passion, wine.  The first book I read was Karen MacNeil’s excellent, excellent Wine Bible, which is a must if you’re at all interested in wine.  Other books I liked were Mark Oldman’s Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine, which is a very accessible primer with useful recommendations on everyday value wines, and the haughtily entertaining tome on French wines from the British wine writer Clive Coates, MW, An Encyclopedia of the Wines and Domaines of France, which though published in 2001 is still an exhaustive overview of literally every appellation of France.  (He writes like how I’d imagine General Cornwallis would have written had he been a wine critic in addition to being commander of the British troops in the Colonies.)

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R. López de Heredia: Ready When You Are

13 Oct

I write a wine column for my law school newspaper.  Unfortunately, they only pay me $10 per column, which will hardly pay for a bottle of good Portuguese Douro.  I will say that there are a number of great wines out there in the $10-$15 range, but there are a HUGE number of even better wines at the $15+ range.

Short of taking out more in loans, a grad student has few options for financing an education in wine.  Luckily, one of those options is hosting wine tastings where everyone chips in for some really great bottles.

So, I’ve hosted a few tastings for friends and for fellow staffers at the Nota Bene, and we’ve been able to try some delicious, delicious wines (and cheese… and patê…).  The first was themed “Summer Reds” and featured lighter reds (such as Beaujolais and Pinot, including a pretty wonderful pinot–the 2006 Radio-Coteau “Savoy” from the Anderson Valley of California).  The second was themed “Spanish Wines”, which is the topic of this particular blog post, and the third will be based around both red and white Burgundies.

We tasted a number of great Spanish wines: three whites and four reds.  The four reds were further subdivided into two groups: two bottles from Rioja, and two from Ribera del Duero.  One in each pair was “Old World”-style (generally aged longer before being released, less assertive oak, leaner) and the other was “New World”-style (released after a fewer number of years, more assertive oak, bigger and fuller profiles).

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Keeping Your Babies Safe: A Note on “Cellaring” Wine

8 Sep

I’ve been running the air conditioner in my apartment non-stop.  This is not only because it’s been pretty warm here in DC, but because I have a case of wine (with some awesome picks like the 2006 Radio-Coteau “Savoy” pinot noir and a few white and red Burgundies) I’m keeping for two tastings I’m hosting for the staff of my school newspaper.  I’m really paranoid that the wines will go bad.

I’ve had a few bad experiences with wine that was improperly stored.  For instance, my last sentimental bottle of L’Esprit du Silene gave up its spirit after being stored (by my parents) on top of the refrigerator.  More recently, the two cases of wine my roommate and I had “cellared away” in a spare closet turned to vinegar after the cruel DC summer.  But this was nothing compared to the Battle of the Somme-like destruction experienced by my friend and fellow wine blogger Shea during a particularly nasty heat wave in British Columbia.

Of course, the destruction of my own two cases did set me back quite a bit of money.  Just as important as the economic aspect, however, is the frustration of opening bottle after bottle of vinegar in the quest of hospitality or romance.

So how does one avoid this fate?

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Thoughts: DC and LA / Cremant d’Alsace / Beauty / God / Life

17 Aug

I am in a certain mood right now that defies exact transcription into words.  Surely you’ve been in those moods before–everyone has, if they’ve cared enough to notice.  Perhaps I could define the parameters of that mood by listing some of the songs I’ve been listening to this early morning, this not altogether-unpleasant warm and humid DC early morning.  For instance, on the lighter side I’ve been listening to Oscar Peterson, in his Big 4 incarnation (“You Look Good to Me”) and supporting the “Montreux Kings”–Eldridge, Gillespie, Terry–trio of horns (“(There Is) No Greater Love”).  Charles Mingus (“II B.S.”) has verve but also a dark foreboding to it, something menacing that feels right right about now.  Nick Drake and Elliot Smith.  I haven’t decided on my old standby, Van Morrison.  It doesn’t seem like a Van Morrison type of morning.


I have been incredibly fortunate.  I think that this could be assumed just by the very fact that I even have a wine blog.  At the same time, it is a truth of life that there are struggles, disappointments, and tragedies.

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Another Reason Why I’ll Miss LA

4 Aug

A while back I wrote that there wasn’t a sauvignon blanc that I liked.  How much has changed!  Now sauv blanc is, if not my favorite, one of my favorite white wines.

Now my white grape whipping-boy is chardonnay.  I could swear that I’ve not met a chardonnay that I’ve liked, though that’s not technically true.  Quite a few years ago I had a delicious Carneros chardonnay from V. Sattui at their St. Helena tasting room–so delicious, in fact, that it was priced above my budget.

Not that I ever wanted to dislike chardonnay, what with sentimental memories of Remy from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles drinking the wine with wonderful abandon.  But more recent memories of horrible cheap chard from the I-House at Berkeley (where 1.5 L bottles of it were kept above room temperature for God knows how long) and horrible, more expensive chard wiped out any affinity I might have had for this most noble of grapes.

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