Vol.1 No. 6 …oh, Spanish wines…

…ok, so the song was Spanish Eyes…sorry!

Tuesday we went back to St-Jean-de-Luz and had lunch at Brasserie Le Madison and at the next table was a Spanish woman who asked if she could help with our deciphering the menu board. We talked and when I told her I was working on a book on wine she told me that her family owned Cune, one of the top La Rioja producers in Haro (the Napa of La Rioja). She was fascinating and talked about during the war, Franco and the occupation of France. She is 81, eleven years older than TB. (Note, this is why we prefer to travel alone as we get to meet the locals and not get ‘wrapped up’ in ourselves. We enjoy travelling with others but our best experiences have occurred when we are alone.) Her name was Sophie Vallejo and when I told her a city in California had that name she told me she had gone there with Robert Mondavi! She was charming and wrote on my card a letter of introduction to her family’s winery, Cune, for a special tour. An interesting sidelight is that Cune is right next to Muga and years ago sold their grape juice to Muga. These are two of the most famous Rioja producers. She also recommended we visit Marquez de Riscal in Alava.

From there we went back to St-Jean-Pied-a-Port, to explore Basque wines. While not as polished as Riojas or Ribera del Dueros, they are interesting and the better ones (about 12-15€) are pretty good and very good value. The biggest is Irouleguy in St.Ettiene De Baḯgorry. The reds are made primarily from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tannat. The better ones have more of the Tannat grape making them suitable for aging up to seven years. They also make a Cava in the traditional French manner that is excellent value and very good. To be honest, TB had not been a fan of Cava but the more he learns, the more he sees how well it is made in the traditional manner. My favorites were a 2013 Kattalingorri, a wine made without herbicides (as the Lady Bug on the label indicates). And a 2014 Mignaberry Rose that is an aperitif. The tasting room was very nice and could stand up to ones in California – no appointment needed.

The Basque Country, both Spanish and French, is beautiful…and the people are so proud of their heritage – especially those on the Spanish side (don’t say that in front of them though). It took me back to Northern Ireland…protest signs on barns and rock walls for independence, and road signs in Spanish crossed out so only the Uresqea remains. Warm, friendly people who are hardworking and funloving.

Next stop: La Rioja

TB

©Copyright 2015 TBOW, all rights reserved.

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Vol.1 No. 5 …sleepless in San Sebastian

…actually in Hernani, just out of the town. I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep because I am a week late updating the blog…not that I haven’t been working, but I had planned to describe the trip so readers can share in TB’s great adventure.

We arrived very tired on Wednesday, March 3rd having lost a day traveling. Several things stood out: first, coming from freezing weather in Minneapolis, it has been in the mid to high 60’s here and the last rain was the earlier on the day we arrived. We had expected to be able to navigate easily in San Sebastian and Bilbao but they are good sized cities that are built with narrow streets. It seems there are more cars than people and they are all parked, leaving no spaces for anyone else. You have to park in an underground garage and that can cost 20 Euros a day (originally we found a nice place in the old town but it had no parking and so that 20E’s added up quickly so we found a wonderful (and cheaper) place in Hernani, just 3 miles out of town. It is the perfect base for us as it is on the way to Pamplona, La Rioja, Bilbao, and the French Basque Country (the Spanish Basques consider themselves superior because they have refused to adopt the Spanish language and still fight for independence), and the owners are wonderful as is our ‘uber-modern’ apartment with a deck.

After resting a bit we ventured into Hernani and found a tapas bar for our dinner. They are excellent and you choose from them sitting on the bar and they are very reasonable (drinks and six tapas cost just 10€).

We spent most of Thursday in San Sebastian and then drove down the awe-inspiring coast to Bilbao where we ate in another tapas bar (the etiquette is that you throw your napkins on the floor while you are eating thus keeping the bar clean and clear). We will return to Bilbao for the Guggenheim and other sights.

On Friday, we returned to San Sebastian and took a great double deck bus tour for orientation and had a wonderful lunch in a beachside restaurant.

Saturday, we were told about a wine festival in Durango, on the way to Bilbao. It featured 44 wineries from all over Spain and local food. That meant a total of over 120 different wines some for casual drinking priced from 4 to 15€ a bottle, but there were also fifty priced above that with fifteen priced from 25 to as high has 76€ (a wonderful brandy from one of the very best sherry producers, Ximénez-Spínola, but my favorites were their two aged sherries…and I spoke at length with the winemaker; since they are produced in Jerez in the south, we wouldn’t have had that experience).  There were Riojas, Albariño’s, wonderful Cava’s, Ribero del Duero’s, and even some Basque wines, like Txakoli (Chocoli), a white. It was a fascinating experience.

On Sunday, we drove into the French Basque country and up to Bayonne, France, where I ended up speaking to an American who tried to help us talk to the owner of a shop. It turned out that he is an ex-Pat, who not only lived in San Francisco and New York before moving to France but was also in the investment business – he had worked for Bank of America when I was buying bonds from them and although we had never met we knew each other and reminisced about mutual friends – it truly is a small, small world! We then drove down the coast to Biarritz and St. Jean de Luz before returning home. It was refreshing spending a day where English was understood.

Today, Monday, we returned to the French Basque Country and drove to St-Jean-de-Pied-a-Port, where the Campostela begins (a nearly 500 mile pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, made famous by the Martin Sheen movie, The Way). Hopefully, TB won’t go to hell for getting a passport for the pilgrimage with no intention of making the endurance test. I got the first stamp and will hopefully pick up some more during our travels. I rationalized it that since we only have two more weeks in Spain I couldn’t have completed the journey anyway.

More to follow tomorrow…

TB

©Copyright 2015 TBOW, all rights reserved.

Vol. 1 No. 4…a visit to Schram’s – berg…(updated 2/22)

A little play on words. As it was the writer’s intention to cover more obscure wine regions and their wineries, this seems to be a good time to do so. Since beginning this blog, Schram is the first winery I have interviewed. There will be more, interspersed with other columns. Hope you find it interesting.

Schram Vineyards was started in 2008, as a result of Ashley and Aaron Schram’s passion for wine.
Establishing and operating the vineyard was no easy task with both working full-time. As if that wasn’t enough they soon had a baby, and then a second (she quit her corporate job on that child’s second birthday), and became the full-time manager with the equally important additional task of being a full-time mom. It is their passion that brought me to the winery in 2013, and why they are included in this blog (book?).

It is great fun to own a vineyard and winery (more so if you are a millionaire or more likely a billionaire). Sexy, romantic, and you establish yourself as an esthetic. After all, you can hire people, most of them fairly inexpensively…with the exception of a winemaker. However, you get to take the bows. Still the Schram’s are having fun. TB could name a few gentlemen vintners but instead would rather focus on those who put ‘sweat equity’ as well as real money into their endeavor. The obvious places are California, Oregon, and Washington. Since wine is produced to some degree in all 50 states), and living in Minnesota I decided to look at wineries here, in Wisconsin, and also in New York. TB even had a bottle of wine once from New Mexico, La Bombe, the winemaker being a scientist at Los Alamos who made the wine in his garage. The label showed a mushroom cloud…and the wine was pretty good too!
I took note of the Schram name because of the similarity to Schramsburg ( founded by Jacob Schram in 1862), the California producer of sparkling wine. Although Schramsburg is made to closely match French Champagne, the French sued and now the appellation can only be used for those wines made in the Champagne region.  Considering some of the ‘plonk’ that was passed off with ‘champagne’ on the label, who can blame them? Schramsburg became world-famous when then-President Nixon decreed that all wine served at the White House would be American-produced (this did not stop him from having a bottle of Chateau Margaux on the floor beside him…what did you expect from the man? It’s good to be president!

The Minnesota Schram’s first harvest was in 2011 but they sold all the grapes to other local producers. Their wines are now produced with about one-third of the grapes from the ‘estate’; other Minnesota growers; and from Yakima, Washington.

They use screw cap bottles, which some of you may be surprised to learn, are as expensive as bottling with corks. The Kiwi’s and Aussie’s were the first to do this with Randall Grahm (Bonny Doon), being the first well-known producer to adopt it. Take the romance out of it, and screw caps are more reliable. Ah, but what about the aging, you say? Did you know that if you store the wine long enough the bottles will probably have to be re-corked (Mouton Rothschild does this for its wine for free when they come to the U.S.). There is also the possibility of a ‘corked’ bottle (not a pleasant taste), not to mention some people saying they don’t like a wine and declaring it corked. Either way it is expensive for the winery.

They were assisted in the beginning by enologist Nick Smith, who teaches Enology at the University of Minnesota, where many varietals have been improved or created. Aaron, who has been making wine since he turned 21, learned well and fine-tuned his winemaking skills.

The Schrams have ten acres of land suitable for vineyards, of which six are gently sloping, southerly facing, and have plans to plant the other four acres soon. Their sales (increasing them for a young winery is always difficult) gradually grew and last year expanded by 200%, quite a feat and made possible by adding beer last year!

Schram produces wine from eight different Minnesota varieties — Marquette, Frontenac Gris, Sabrevois, Petit Pearl, Prairie Star, Brianna.  In addition, they use Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Cabernet from Washington.  From these they produce seven wines including their signature wine Marquette also available as a Reserve wine that is barrel-aged for 14 months. In December, they released their first sparkling wine, moving them somewhat in the direction of the California Schramsburg.

All is going well with Schram’s new community room (tasting room), and as if that was not enough they added a brewery. That is not as far-fetched as it may sound because you use much of the same equipment that is idle after the harvest is completed. There are a few other wineries in the U.S. doing this but Schram may be the first to do so in Minnesota. The advantage is that if one person in a couple only likes to drink craft beers, and the other only wine, they can provide both and make the thought of a visit more attractive to them. As TB has found over the years, it is not a far stretch to transform a beer drinker to a wine drinker, especially when there are several wines, both red, white, and a sparkler, as well as eight craft beers on tap!

From Spring through Fall they have wine tasting and fun events, making use of their beautiful outdoor space. Beginning this Valentine’s Day, they are offering dancing lessons one Saturday night a month; Case Club activities, ‘Paint and Sip’ nights, and many other events. They also serve as a venue for parties, weddings, etc., but Ashley made it clear this will not be their focus, as it is at some wineries.

If you are in the Twin Cities region, TB highly recommends taking the drive out Hwy 5 to Waconia and visiting the Schrams as well as some of the other vintners in the area. You might be surprised and you won’t be disappointed.

TB

©Copyright 2015 TBOW, all rights reserved.

Vol. 1 No. 3 …French Laundry update; Wine ‘Investment’ Clubs

According to the Napa Valley Register and other sources, most of the wine stolen from the French Laundry on Christmas Day was recovered in…of all places…Greensboro, North Carolina? Don’t have the details on how, or why it was there, OR how they located it. Those of you who have had property stolen know the frustration of having the property held pending trial – which in this case may or may not occur since they have no suspects in custody, or even identified. So where is the wine now? In the ‘safest’ place the authorities could find: the French Laundry’s OWN wine cellar. Wait…wasn’t that where it was stolen from? Worse, they cannot sell it until the investigation is complete. (Why does the evidence have to be held when there are so many ways of authenticating evidence today…and it is not ‘unknown’ for evidence to disappear even while in police custody (aren’t you shocked?)

Unanswered:

First and foremost: was the wine damaged? How was it cared for after the theft and AFTER the police recovered it? Would you buy the wine if you were dining there? Not TB, no way! Keller most likely would have done better had he been able to collect the insurance and buy more wine like it!

Next item on the agenda: According to the January 23, 2015 issue of Financial Advisor magazine, “more than half a dozen firms peddling wine investments, in the U.K. alone went belly up last year. “Why have there been so many flops?” There are lots of reasons…the article cites one fund, The Wine Trust, in the U.S., where investors put their money for eight years, but here’s the rub (at least to TB): they have $15-20 million in assets. When something goes wrong what can they do? Sell? To whom?

Another fund, Belgium-based, had wine assets worth 102 million Euros ($115 million in today’s market – $125 million according to the article which illustrates yet another risk: currency – at the end of 2012, then someone questioned their valuation methods! Like a fire in a theater, investors headed for that small ‘doorway’, and the fund could not meet ‘net redemptions’ (a not uncommon problem of any mutual fund – stocks, bonds, options, etc.

Besides ‘questionable’ appraisal methods (remember they use last price at auction…and there could be just one fool…or there could be trading among several holders…it happens in small stocks…and especially penny stocks, so why not wine? This is not to imply that the fund managers are dishonest (talking about wine), but they wouldn’t know why the price was being bid up if the ‘group’ consisted of several high-profile members.

Why would they do that? Why would a known billionaire and expert on wine have created counterfeit bottles and attested to their authenticity? Why did Cruse, a famous French wine negociant (not to be confused with a California firm with the same name), would risk, and eventually destroy the firm’s long-established  reputation by bottling cheaper wine as Pouilly-Fuisse? They were eventually charged, convicted and heavily fined. There have been several scandals, the worst being when methanol was put in Italian wine, killing six and injuring at least 30. The point is that wine prices are especially susceptible to scandal. To TB it is like people who don’t trust the U.S. Dollar, so they are investing in Bitcoins!

Back to investment clubs and the FA article. They discuss a 2009 bottle of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte which rose by 143 percent between June 2010 and December of the same year! Meanwhile, French first-growth wines rose by 345 percent between 2005 and 2011 before falling 41 percent through November 2014. Let TB clarify this for you: that 41% decline is off the 345% which would reduce the gain to 203% – which means you had better have gotten in very early! Conversely, to get back to the high would require a 70% increase (something even stock investors fail to understand!).

But the real catalyst for price escalation was the Chinese, who shifted their attention from first growth Bordeaux to premier cru Burgundy, causing a reversal of fortune. Worse yet, the Chinese government cracked down on bribes of public officials (TB is SHOCKED), thus slashing demand. Recall TB’s comments in the first blog, citing Red Obsession, which stated that all of the great wine would be bought by the Chinese? TB’s response was: the same was said in 1988 – the year before the Japanese economy imploded and hasn’t recovered since then. Even diamonds aren’t forever, right Mr. Bond?

So TB will close with the same advice that he began this blog with: drink what you like, and buy what you like…not what some industry-anointed expert says you should…you will be happier and you will have more money in your pocket.

Until next time: don’t ‘stay thirsty my friends’ – drink up! This ain’t no library! (said by the bartender at an enlisted men’s club when TB was in the Navy).

TB

©Copyright 2015 TBOW, all rights reserved.

 

 

Vol. 1 No. 2 …do I care what Parker/Rolland think?

I’ve looked at wine from both sides now,
from up and down, and still somehow
it’s wine’s illusions I recall.
I really don’t know wine at all.

– with just a tad of literary license from Both Sides Now, by Joni Mitchell

If the above causes you to ask if he doesn’t know wine, why write a blog? TB would answer, “I know something about wine but I don’t know what you, dear reader, like. Neither do the guru’s: Robert Parker, who gave us the 100 point grading system back in 1978, and which is now copied by at least half a dozen other wine writers/critics; or Michel Rolland, who consults for over two hundred wineries, and whose goal is to bring the same attributes to all of them. Rolland was immortalized in Mondovino, as a Tiparillo-smoking, jovial fellow being chauffeured all over France…and elsewhere in the world, along with the Mondavis (not to be confused with the MonDAVIES – Bob’s estranged brother). Interestingly, Mondavi was at its zenith when the documentary came out in 2004, but then was sold to Constellation, and has lost its aura…and when you lose your aura in wine, the fall from grace – Can be a long plunge.

Let’s get this straight: if you like Two Buck Chuck (now $3.89 by the way), or Gallo Hearty Burgundy, who is Parker, or Rolland, or Trader Bill, or anyone to set you ‘straight’? What a boring world it would be if everyone liked exactly the same wines…oops, the wine snobs already do which has escalated the price of those 90-100 point wines as speculators, not consumers, buy them and trade them among one another further driving up the price. Some people have never even seen the wines they own and never will.

In Red Obsession, it was said that the Chinese could become the buyers of all the Bordeaux in the world. Flash back to about 1988 and the same was being said about: the Japanese! Arigato! If you don’t believe this, go to this link, just published today: Lower wine prices, less Chinese demand

The above is as negative as you will see in this blog and it is not intended to harm anyone named, but when TB saw this cartoon (sorry, unable to find it so will just have to quote it), at his 50th birthday on the Napa Valley Wine Train, it became indelibly printed in his brain:

Customer tasting at wine shop: “This wine is terrible!”

Clerk: “Really? Parker gave it a 90…

Customer: “I’ll take two cases!!!”

That epitomizes the wine snob who knows little about it but thinks he can look smart by serving and pointing out, “this is a 90-point wine.” It brings about the question: when is the last time you saw a wine displaying a rating below 87 in any store?

In Sideways, Miles was the epitome a wine snob (by the way, it was more disgusting than funny in the book). He loathed Merlot – as if there were no good Merlots, only plonk. He had obviously never tried a Duckhorn, especially the Three Palms, or any of the other wines not produced for the ‘cocktail’ crowd. Instead, he loved Pinot Noir, especially Burgundies. Yet his favorite wine was Cheval Blanc, a beautiful St. Emilion, which is…100% Merlot (in the book he only mentions Chateau Petrus, also 100% Merlot)! For all you France haters, how do you think they feel about us for all those ‘burgundies’, and ‘chablis’ we sold for a couple of bucks a bottle?…not to mention Champagne!

One of TB’s favorite wine writers in San Francisco…sadly, he can’t recall the name…once spent a column on wine writers. He posed: how can you use someone’s wine recommendations without knowing if what they like in a wine is the same as what you look for? Good question…any takers?

Also in Sideways: it was amazing how Miles always brought out the best and most expensive wine when he was trashed! By the way, TB has had this happen after several glasses of wine at a dinner and had that urge to (and satisfied it), bring out some of his best bottles…with little or no recollection of how they tasted with the palate numbed. There’s a lesson here!

TB observed ‘the Sideways effect’ almost immediately when in wine shops the Merlot came down from the eye level shelf to the bottom, changing places with the Pinot Noir…and TB has had some not-so-well -made Pinots. Note that Robert Veseth, now professor emeritus at Puget Sound University, observed the same thing and wrote a paper on it from an economics point of view, the impetus for his blog The Wine Economist and a new career.

Let’s go back to the Parker/Rolland paradox: for all the good they did in improving the quality of wine – globally – they have homogenized it…like buying one brand of milk over another…ok, maybe buying Coke (the drink) over Pepsi. What is missing is something found in the best wines: terroir (tere-wahr).

Terroir is the summation of all that goes into a wine from the soils and climate, to the way the vines are planted. It is what distinguishes a Heitz Martha’s Vineyard from other Cabernets, or a fine Chablis with its flintiness, from any other Chardonnay.

Now for the consequences: imagine a farmer growing corn, and some ‘expert’ comes along and says he is rating your corn an 87? What would he do? Escort the guy off his farm…and probably not in a pleasant way. But take away all the romanticism and wine is just that: farming, and farming means you can do everything right and still have a bad crop…you hope, (pray ?), for the best. But the farmer doesn’t see the price of his wine double or more with a 100 point score, instead the independent wine buyer who does his own research pays for it. Relief may be in sight as this 2015 prediction states: 2015 wine predictions

On this you don’t need to take TB’s word. He was told this by none other than Joe (Joseph) Heitz. TB, with a group of friends, which included Joe’s nephew from Reno, Nevada, was invited to lunch on the Heitz’ deck and enjoyed some of their Riesling and wonderful sausages on a beautiful Napa morning. This was followed by a tour, in which, Joe said that vineyard land could not go any higher and still allow the buyer to make money. I bought a case that day of the 1974 Martha’s Vineyard Anniversary Cabernet…$40 a bottle, I believe. Remember, Heitz was the most sought-after Cabernet Sauvignon in America. At that time Mondavi Cab was about $7.50 a bottle (don’t laugh, TB bought the 1972 with $4.95 price tags). In 2000, TB put some of his older wines up for auction, including his last bottle of the Heitz: it sold for $400 – is any wine worth that much? It’s WINE, not art, and meant to be consumed…and don’t forget old wines don’t taste anything like they did when young.

If you want proof of just how much impact Parker and Rolland have had consider this article published on Aug. 6th 2014 – my 45th wedding anniversary by the way – remember 1976 was pre-Parker AND Rolland, then came the conversion (capture?); are we about to go round trip? You decide…1976 Wine Judgement: then and now

Maybe you should just trust your own taste buds. If you like a wine, buy a case of it and drink it over the next 3-5 years…be able to serve it a dinner when it might be worth 2-3 times what you paid for it. That is the fun of wine…not ‘hoarding’ it, right?

If you can find it, Jancis Robinson wrote a book, Vintage TimeCharts, which graphs how wines she tasted lasted over the years…it is extremely valuable in knowing just how long most wines will keep, and how long the best can keep. It tracks wines from as far back as 1989 to 2000…some of the best! Highly recommended, and here’s the good news if you are interested: you can buy it online for $4.95 or less! A wonderful addition to any wine library. TB would add that Jancis is one of the great wine writers, long on fact, short on ego.

Well, dear reader, hope you found this as interesting as the trip down memory lane was for TB. Ah, but there are a million wine stories in the Naked City…this is just one of them (anyone remember?).

TB

©Copyright 2015 TBOW, all rights reserved.

Vol. 1, No. 1…a new beginning…

“Wine is the answer. What was the Question?” – Anon

Trader Bill is a news junkie…before it was all about financial and political matters…this blog, however, will be entirely wine and travel related to wine.

The blog will be published every other Monday (hopefully).

Here is a nice kickoff story… well, interesting anyway:

On Christmas Day, some creep(s) crept into the cellar at the three-star Michelin, French Laundry, owned by the famous Thomas Keller (also Per Se in NYC). The restaurant was closed for remodeling and these guys knew what they were looking for: la creme de la creme. They only took the highest valued wines: Screaming Eagle, Domaine Romanee Conti (DRC), and other prized wines. The Napa County Sheriff’s Office put a value of $15,000 on it…low ball! Keller estimated it at $300,000. One bottle was reportedly worth $16,000 (let’s make this clear: to TB, no wine is worth that price…TB’s just sayin’). TB counts 77 bottles (that’s an average of $3,900 from the list provided on his blog by Keller…wonder why they didn’t fill up the last case? (Correcting as originally I thought there were 57 bottles but then found more on the list and forgot to remove the comment on 3 more bottles, mea culpa). Think this is rare? Try googling ‘wine theft’ and you will be amazed at the number…but should you be? It’s big and easy money!

Most, if not all, of these bottles have serial numbers so Keller and wine experts say they will be hard to sell. Hard to sell? Pullease…how many art thefts have we read of that are never seen again? Imagine owning some Picasso and not being able to show it to any for fear it would be reported to the authorities. Now with a bottle of wine from some well-heeled collector…or perhaps a wealthy Chinese…there are a lot of them out there and they are craving these names as they have been ‘speculated’ out of view.

According to the wine documentary, Red Obsession, Bordeaux futures of the top crus are purchased in the futures market (see TB can’t get away from his other blog), and when delivered stored in warehouses where they may be ‘flipped’ several times and it is not uncommon for the ‘owners’ (brief as that may be) to never even see them, let alone drink them!

Let’s say the wine is released in the futures market by the estate at $500. The buyer can then sell that for say $700, then to another for $900…in what could be a daisy chain, which succeeds in elevating the price worldwide. What a scam!…and you wondered why TB said that ‘no wine is worth that’. TB can’t even imagine what Trader Vic Bergeron would have said, after he picked himself up off the floor!

So to TB, those serial numbers aren’t worth the ‘label’ they are printed on. Besides, if they do recover them, who could attest to how they were stored? As for poor Keller, he posted the story first – on his Facebook page. Sadly, some of the responses mocked him which is really a cheap shot at one of the finest restaurants in the world…TB can attest to that having lunched there…although we did go to Burger King afterwards to sate our appetites due to the size of the portions. (For the record, TB favors Bistro Jeanty, just down the street in Yountville from the ‘Laundry’ and Keller’s bistro Bouchon…Philippe, no need to thank me for the plug…you have the bistro that people search for when they travel in France…but can never find!)

This brings us to another issue: celebrity wine auctions. While they serve worthy causes, they are merely places for the wealthy to ‘see and be seen’, and as for the bottles, TB has seen some with more than one sticker on it from the Napa Valley Wine Auction. By the way, at the auction, it is not uncommon for one winery owner to bid up another’s and then for that owner to return the favor…hey, it’s good advertising…not cheap, but good, just like the wine.

TB started buying Bordeaux in 1973 in Los Angeles. He had been buying California wines (note one of his 1969 Mondavi cabs, still had a price tag on it of $4.95!). The impetus was seeing Bordeaux priced at $20-30. This down from significantly higher prices just a year earlier. Why? Because there were a couple of scandals…one where some Italian winemakers were putting in ‘additives’, some of which turned out to be poisonous and resulted in a few deaths. As for French wines, a highly-respected wine negociant, Cruse, created a frenzy with the hot, Pouilly Fuisse, by selling bottles with ‘vin ordinaire’ inside and thus causing them to sell for as much as five times more than they really were worth. What is remarkable about this is Cruse was a well-respected broker. Furthermore, the family was in the process of trying to sell the brand, so they ended up ‘killing the goose that laid the golden egg’ – and they didn’t even get the foie gras!

Moving right along, counterfeiting of labels has occurred…hey if they are willing to do twenties, why wouldn’t they do it with wine that can cost several times more? One of the counterfeiters was a very respected wine collector who used his reputation to peddle the wine at auction to unsuspecting buyers. He even counterfeited some of the famous Jefferson wines…guess he figured that even if they tasted it they wouldn’t know if it was the real thing since the taste would have changed so much, right? For this reason, the restaurants…some at least…have taken to breaking the bottles so they cannot be reused, but how would you know if your prized bottle wasn’t ‘refilled’ and sold at auction?

Well, since I am approaching 1,000 words, it is about time to go but TB wishes to make one point: he abhors wine snobbery. Wine is food, wine is agriculture, and made to be enjoyed with food…of course it is also great on the side…especially with good friends. This point was made to TB decades ago by legendary Napa Valley vintner, Joe Heitz, at a delightful brunch on the deck his home and winery with some of his family…but that’s another story…after all, there are a ‘million stories in the Naked City and this is just one of them.’

a sante!

Trader Bill

©Copyright 2015 TBOW, all rights reserved.