Vol. 4 No. 7, Judgment of Chaska 5/24/18

In Minnesota, and this may surprise you, we have a plethora of good privately owned wine shops, within the greater Twin Cities region. Among the ones that TB likes and frequents are  (in alphabetical order): Excelsior Vintage, France 44, La Dolce Vita, Solovino, and Wine Republic. All have their special interests. Note, TB did not include chains especially perhaps the largest in the U.S., which shall not receive mention.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Afterall, In I’ve Been Everywhere, Johnny Cash names Minnesota in the first verse and Chaska in the last. One email recently caught TB’s eye: a tasting based on the original Judgment of Paris tasting that elevated American wines to world class forty-two years ago. TB has written of this tasting and the book on it by George M. Taber, a journalist for Time magazine stationed in Paris  He, like other reporters received a notice of this tasting to be held at the Intercontinental Hotel, a short distance from Time’s offices. Having nothing better to do he wandered in just before the tasting was to begin (for more details read the post, Vol. 3, No 16).

The idea to ‘recreate’ the tasting was the brainchild of Troy Seefeldt, who along with his wife Jen, did an exceptional presentation at La Dolce Vita wine shop in…Chaska, MN…exactly forty-two years after the famous event!

It was a blind tasting, with no clues, other than I and a few others who knew of the tasting. We were poured blind tastes in pairs, a French and an American. First, Sauvignon Blanc, then Chardonnay, then Merlot, and lastly Cabernet Sauvignon.  To cater to novices (and I will be the first to state that I am not an expert on wine, but a lover and advocate of the noble grapes), a five category scoring sheet was provided, that made it fun for all with scores of 1-5 on each, and a 25 point perfect score:

CLARITY: All but Opaque; Polluted Lake; See Through; Translucent, and Sparkling

NOSE: Rotten Eggs; Vinegar Medley; Inoffensive; Impressive; Freudian Complex

BODY: Needs a Workout; Skinny & Flabby; Proportionate; Lean + Sinewy; Boldly Muscled

FLAVOR: Oenophilic  Ick; Too Sweet; Amply Acidic; Balanced; Romancing the Tongue

FINISH: Bitter Swallow; Callow Gustation; Small Parting Gift; Extra Stamina; Dream Worthy

See…that isn’t so hard is it? Scores came in amazingly similar! This happened to TB when he took people whose idea of wine was followed by ‘cooler’, when he moved to Reno – the same year as the Judgment! Using the UC Davis 20-point Scoring System , they were amazed at how well they did, as was I, although the overall winner was a ringer I put in: Gallo Hearty Burgundy, but you can’t deny it was well made wine. Contrast to the 100-point system created by Robert Parker, which may have done more than anything else to improve the quality of wine than anything else I can recall. The downside to this was conformity for those coveted 90 point ratings, eliminating the artistry of the winemaker, and destroying any semblance to terroir. Note also that there are literally dozens of 100 point systems, having from 25-30 subjective points. Parker is very clear in what he likes: huge fruitbombs with tannins (yes, even for the subtle Pinot Noirs, which is why he was banned from Burgundy tastings). Others not so much and many of them promoting wines they are directly involved in or being compensated to evaluate.  Let’s banish ALL 100 point systems…period! As a San Francisco wine critic once wrote: how can you trust my ratings if you don’t know what I look for in a wine? (For more on ratings see Vol. 3 No 6).

Lastly, note that the actual Judgment used 20 point scoring, however there were no rules on how those points were to be calculated. Since all ten judges were French, (sponsor Steven Spurrier, and his pupil, Patricia Gallagher scored the wines too but they weren’t tabulated…wouldn’t you?)  there was a huge variation, much more than one might expect from experienced wine evaluators, since several tried to ‘game the system’ and mistook the French wines for the Americans, causing one judge, Odette Kahn, who gave obscenely low scores to the French wines to demand that her scores be removed…they weren’t! Also, I had the country wrong on one of the four pairings…and felt lucky on that.

Back to the wines for the tasting (of course, the cost of the original wines would have been prohibitive – if you could find them), so proxies were provided as follows along with my total points:

Sauvignon Blanc: Coteaux Du Giennois, 2017, 18; Grgich Hills Fume Blanc, 2014, 19

Chardonnay: Ch. Montelena, 2015, 17; William Fevre, Chablis, 2015, 18 (I did really bad in this category!)

Guillemin La Gaffelieere Grand Cru St. Emilion 2010, 16; Freemark Abbey Merlot, 2013, 20

Chateau Aney 2015, Haut Medoc, 22; Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, 23

So, for better or worse, those were my scores. Like the original Judgment, it was a great experiment and loads of fun! Try it, you’ll like it!

©Traderbillonwine.com 2018

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traderbill

How did Trader Bill originate? It was conceived by me as a way of providing information summaries of global financial markets so that friends and associates could bring themselves up to speed on events and changing market conditions upon their arrival at work. In addition, it provides information on speakers and economic releases that day with consensus estimates and level of last release so that the reader is prepared to react, or knows how the market might react upon the release of information. Who is Trader Bill? Initially any reference to me was as ‘i’. This is to remove the aura of ego and to suggest that i am but a humble reporter, albeit with 35 years of investment experience. Investments are demanding of ego, however, or one would not feel that he was qualified to manage someone else’s money in the first instance. Therefore i needed an ‘alter-ego’. Like Winchell and Mahoney, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy and especially Trader Vic and Mai Tai’s! Why Trader Vic? Because he was a likeable man who delivered pleasure to his customers and knew exactly what their desires were. The reason for the alter ego became obvious once I introduced Trader Bill into my commentaries: people started asking what Trader Bill thought. They had never asked me what I thought before, but suddenly they wanted to know what TB thought! Now mind you they KNEW that I was Trader Bill but for some reason he became bigger than life. Maybe it was the small ‘I’? What does Trader Bill try to do?His goal is to educate from his years of experience. Consider that most of the traders and people managing investments weren’t even around in 1987 for the crash! Consider that Graham and Dodd, and even Warren Buffet are not relevant to them, too old hat. Their historical perceptions of markets and fundamentals (earnings, price/earnings ratios, bonds, debt service coverage) are irrelevant in this fast moving world. This is the NEW ECONOMY, or is it? How did your style originate?Years ago i found that i had a knack and talent for writing. In addition, i developed an ability to analyze market news about 15 years ago. It took the Crash of ‘87. Prior to that i was just listening to what others said about the economy. But bond yields had been soaring in ‘87 yet the stock market just kept hitting new highs. That was when i began to learn about markets. i have both a dry and witty sense of humor (some call it inane!). Therefore i attempt to make even the worst news somewhat amusing: whether it is the absurdity of an economic release, or the comments of a CEO. This is trading desk humor (or gallows humor). It isn’t politically correct but it does ease tension. Ironically, it is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (in the Navy they say: it’s always darkest before it’s pitch black!), that allows you to be more objective in your analysis, as bad as a situation is there will still be a tomorrow! You will see that i practice three-dot journalism, a style made famous by San Francisco reporter Herb Caen, whom i idolized. At least to me it is effective. What is so special about your analysis?Frankly, i don’t know that it is special, but at least it beats “the market closed down today on profit taking.” What i do know is that most of what you read is spat out without considering whether or not it is rational, like the above statement. Is it right? Sometimes yes and sometimes no, and that is the key to what is different about my analysis: it is meant to make you think. Is Dan Rather right or is Trader Bill right? If it causes you to stop and think about it, regardless of whether you agree, i win! Because THAT is my goal…not to have you think i am a guru, got that? Bet you never heard that ANYWHERE before in my business! Instead they want you to think just how smart they are but remember in this business if you are right 60% of the time you ARE a genius! Another thing that is different is when i am wrong on an analysis i will tell you, not hope you forget what i said. So now you have the tools to do what the speculators and hedge funds do: challenge authority, and if you make money it is because YOU did it not me. i was just a tool, your flunky to do the grunt work and let you decide…course you could be wrong too but at least you looked at the big picture. But the goal is also to have fun! This shouldn’t be a business of hushed tones and grim faces. It is a living, breathing thing and nowhere else in the world do you have the odds as much in your favor as here. Just beware of the guy who wants to put his arm around you and tell you he is your friend. So there you have it. I hope you select me as one of your sources for market information. If you do I promise to work my best for your financial success. Trader Bill

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