The Race is Over

When the Race for 57 began, I promised that if I had a wine that was truly poor, one that even in my creative genius I could not stretch out into a hit, then the streak would be over, once again preserving Joe DiMaggio’s magic at 56.  Thus I’m sorry (and somewhat relieved frankly) to have finally met my match.

Now you may say that I bowed to the pressure of some readers who were incredulous that there were so many singles in the mix, those who felt I was just keeping the streak alive so 14 loyal people could continue to read about the wines that I found in TJ’s.  But the truth is I battled valiantly and just came up short.

Now I know how A-Rod feels in the Bronx.  Guy can hit, .325, 45HR, 132RBI but without the ring, he’s nothing but Madonna’s dirty laundry.

While I’m sad the streak is over, I’m happy that the wine that ended the streak was one of Trader Joe’s own.  The 2007 Captain’s Catch.  By this I mean I’m glad it wasn’t a real winery, who’s latest vintage stank.  I’m not big on railing against those who try to earn a living in the winemaking biz.  It’s hard way to make a living and I truly believe that no one is out there intentionally making a bad wine just to make a buck.  But I can throw a bit of scorn on a company like the Joe, who presumably because they felt, why let Frazia make all the noise piggybacking on us?  We’ll make our own wine and take more of the profits.

It’s not so much that this particular wine was the worst thing I ever tasted (though it deserves a spot in my Hall of Shame) it’s the fact that they’re selling it at $5.99.  Again, this tells me that one of the things their internal research group told the powers that be is that at a $5.99 price point, with the TJ’s label on it, we’ll sell well.  And maybe they are.

But for $2.00 more you can buy some seriously good South American and Spanish juice that will completely satisfy.  Would this wine have made the cut at $2.99?  My honest assessment is no, it wouldn’t.

And so baseball and wine loving fans alike, the streak ends at a measly 21 wines.  A noble effort to be sure, one that might get my contact renewed, but still well short of the record.

On a positive note, talk is still churning regarding a four person, 64 wine bracket to coincide with the NCAA College Basketball tourney.  Stay tuned for details, though with February just around the corner, I suspect we have to start it soon.

But next up, my awards season blog of blogs!

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Published in: on January 29, 2009 at 1:25 pm  Comments (1)  

The Race for 57 – Day Twenty-One

I’ve been nothing if not a consistent hitter over the past few weeks but sadly for me (and you, loyal reader) I’m looking for extra bases, not singles.  In this league 3000 hits are not getting me to the wine tasting hall of fame.  It will just create a growing list of okay wines that I may or may not buy again.

I’ll tell you one thing, my mind has been circling the idea of doing a lights out under $10.00 bottle of wine.  Not saying it’s an easy endeavor, but it sure seems worth a try…

The Project Happiness has beckoned me before with its classic smiley face logo (is that in the public domain? – I mean this label is the exact yellow smile that’s been around forever) but I’ve never bit, grumbling to myself that it’s just too cliched a label, even given what the producer (Oreana) is going for.

But I suppose I’ll get through all of these labels eventually and while bypassing the Question Mark label – a surely uncopywritable (is that a word?) image, I grabbed good old “Have a Nice Day.”

The wine is a 2005 Syrah, though as I always wonder with a totally blank cork, is if Oreana simply bought this wine from someone else and with good concept in hand, is selling it as their own.  Again, I could write to ask them but according to an interesting piece at Vinography a few days ago, the last thing I want to identify myself with is being a wine writer.  I write, about wine, but I’m no wine writer…

So I just sit here in my ivory (blogging) tower making snap judgements on things I have no proof of.

At $5.99 I was expecting bigger things from this Syrah – and by bigger I mean more fruit.  It was a bit dirty on the nose (though to be fair we just got a dog so everything smells dirty around here, even the soap) and I caught a hint of licorice.

The fruit, as mentioned above wants to come through, it really does, but even after sampling some just now, a good twenty hours after opening it, still isn’t quite there for me.

I’ll give it a SINGLE, even though I’m sure to get flayed by my friend Howard who is already smelling some sort of scam here, like I’m really scoring these wines just good enough to further this blogging experiment.

I’ve not added up all the previous twenty wines yet but I think, a little less than halfway through, that many of the wines found at TJ’s are just that: SINGLES; nothing special but nor must they be at their price points.  And I guess I can move a little bit up the wine chain and act like Jay Z at a Vegas VIP room, spending upwards of $10.00 a bottle.

We’ll see.  For now, don’t complain to the ump.  I call ’em as I see ’em.

Published in: on January 22, 2009 at 4:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Open That Bottle (To)night

s639353023_950083_8263Whether you are watching live as I am right now, or somewhere else, Tivoing the inauguration of Barack Obama to watch tonight (as I’m also planning on doing) today is a historic day.

It’s been said already that the Capitol building as well as the White House were built, in large part, by slaves that were kept in pens beside both structures during their construction.  And in a little over fifteen minutes from now, a black man will be sworn in as President of the United States, taking the oath on the same bible used by Abraham Lincoln when he became President in 1861.

I’ve been known to say a few bad words about our government over the past eight years but watching a peaceful transfer of power in such historic fashion shows how truly great our country is.

So if you are gathering tonight to watch the inauguration with loved ones, making sure the kids are brought in to watch this magical moment, TODAY is the day to Open that Bottle.

You’ve saved it long enough, break out the corkscrew and pop it.  Then years from now, when your own kids vote in their first election or when you simply look back on the day when something truly special happened, you’ll be glad you did.

Published in: on January 20, 2009 at 9:52 am  Leave a Comment  

The Race for 57 – Day Twenty (Twi-night Doubleheader)

You think it’s bad trying to get to Staples Center for a game or concert on time for a 7:30-8 start, how about trying to get down there for dinner *and* an event.  My first inclination was to leave about 3:00pm, thereby having only to endure the out of work actor/writer/director/editor/DP/composer traffic on the 101.

And yet it is for creative pursuits I’m heading downtown today, as I’m pretentiously a season ticket holder for the LA Philharmonic.  Actually, I shouldn’t be so self-depricating.  I love classical music and the Walt Disney Hall should be a destination for you, whether you live in LA or are just visiting.

wdch_interior1 Amazing site lines, beautiful acoustics, everything pretty much perfect.  My expectations of sitting in traffic though to get there do not follow the usual crawl downtown.  I don’t anticipate any of us, dressed in suits, leaning out the window hollering to our fellow fans about Gustavo Dudamel’s performance or blasting our Tchaikovksy out the window like you do for the Lakers or Springsteen .

But because I am going to cut my day a bit short and also because I’ve now got two wines waiting in my blogging que, I thought it was time to play a doubleheader, those great all-day affairs of yesteryear.

In my youth, a double header was a scheduled game, pay one price for both.  Now, there’s no such thing unless the weather is involved.  And on those days, two separate crowds come and go for each game – how dare a professional sports league give the fans *more* than their monies worth?

So for those who recall those wistful days of eight hours of nothing but baseball here goes:

GAME ONE:

At $4.99 this Chianti from D’Aquino came in the quaint old wicker bottle.  The one I bought looked like it had been recycled from a much older vintage (say: 1971) or at least spent a good amount of time undecteted at the back of some dirty warehouse.

The wine was light in color and had a fruit candy smell, not quite a Life Saver, but maybe, a wine flavored sucking candy – and for all of you entrepreneurs out there – I just patented this idea.  Sorry you’re too late…

The first sip was tart & tannic with a hint of fruit on the mid-pallate.  The finish was dry.  Put another way, there wasn’t much to like or dislike about this wine.

SINGLE

GAME TWO:

I’ve been a fan of Cote du Rhone’s for awhile now, the first one being made by Guigal and written about someplace I cannot remember.  All I recall is that it was one of the first times I sought and bought and although I’ve not looked for this same wine in a few years, I’ve not often found a CdR I did not enjoy.

This effort, the Cellier du Rhone also set me back $4.99.  It had very nice color and a nose of strawberries and rasberries.  The wine was decently balanced but not as much as I would have expected based on what it looked like (hardly a scientific method, I know).

But again, nothing bad I can really say about it.  Did not get better as the night progressed but it served its purpose.

SINGLE

Published in: on January 16, 2009 at 3:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

It’s the End of the Wine Shop World as we Know it (and I don’t feel fine)

The idea for this post popped into my head a few months ago, when I realized that I had not bought a bottle of wine in an actual wine store for the better part of a year.

One reason for this is simple habits.  I no longer buy much wine that I don’t intend to drink right away.  So while I’ll happily eat lunch with the Sherry Lehman catalog open in front of me, and have even been known to accompany a friend into my local shop, Woodland Hills Wine Company, a place I really like, my wine money has only been spent in two places, Whole Foods and (obviously) Trader Joes.  And that’s merely because that’s where I buy my food.

But it was actually a trip to a third location, the Southern California supermarket, Ralphs (where my wife buys wine) as well as the closing of one of our friends & retailers, the Wine C.A.R.T. in Ohio,  that I was  reminded how much the landscape has changed for the wine merchant.

Full disclosure:  we sell wine through the Kroger Co. (who own Ralphs) and their specialty stores in Ohio are filled with knowledgeable wine folks who know their stuff.

My trip to the supermarket was eye opening because in my store, they’ve actually installed a climate controlled wine room, housing an unimaginative but solid roster of good wines.  It’s the kind of selection you might find in a typical upscale restaurant, who’s owners understand their clientele are looking for recognizable names.  Is anyone dropping $119.00 on some high end California Cab while simultaneously placing tortilla chips in their basket?  I can’t be sure.  And I suppose if I had a real reporters nose for a story I’d have simply asked.  But I’m not and I didn’t.

So that leaves me to speculate what the future holds for the wine seller, and by this I mean a real wine shop like The Wine House, Wally’s or that little gem in Beverly Hills, the Wine Valet.  On the surface I’m pretty confident they will survive, as booksellers Barnes & Noble did in the face of competition from Amazon.  It was not that long ago (well, 1994) that we all thought the apocalypse had arrived for any one who built their house of brick & mortar.  And to be sure mom and pop lost the store in many industries as big box operations captured the local interest with bright lights, big selection and of course low, low prices.

Now, places like BevMo (and to be fair I’ve never been in one – it may be great – I’m not singling them out as the bad guy) Costco, et. al., I assume, threaten to do the same to great people like the owners of the Wine C.A.R.T.

And given the current economic climate (read: something wicked this way comes) it seems unlikely that someone working in a cubicle as I type, will start planting the seed to open that little corner wine shop in their town.  At the same time I’m not happy that the cynic in me is leading here.

We’ve  become such a nation of convenience (and when I say we, I certainly have to start with me) that I guess the next place we’ll be able to pickup a nice $6.00 bottle of central coast Red Table wine or  Cote du Rhone will be the local Mobil station.

But my hope, as it always is, lies in our ability to look past the easy and instead steer ourselves towards the best.  Sometimes buying a book on Amazon is the best choice and sometimes going to a small, literary minded book store like Book Soup or Skylight Books is the experience you’ll be craving.  Both are okay.

So when you’re buying dinner for tomorrow night, sure, grab a handy bottle from the supermarket shelf, but alternatively when you’re out getting chips and salsa for a birthday party at that same store two weeks later and need a gift for the guest of honor, make an extra stop, head into your local wine shop and have someone who really loves wine help you make a special choice.

Published in: on January 13, 2009 at 9:41 am  Comments (9)  

The Race for 57 – Day Nineteen

During Joe D’s hitting streak he ended up facing four pitchers who would eventually find their way to Cooperstown.  One of them was the great Bob Feller, who finished the ’41 season with 25 wins, one of them coming against the Yanks that day, June 2 when they prevailed 7-5.

Joe went 2-4 that day with a double and single but in looking at the Baseball Almanac I have to wonder just what he and the rest of his teammates were thinking.  For in Riverdale, NY that same day, maybe unknown to the team, Lou Gehrig died, finally falling to the horrible disease that now bears his name.

lougehrigdayHas there ever been a more moving image in all of sports then Gehrig at Yankee Stadium that day, head bowed with his fellow ball players and fans, who were there to honor him in life, before they’d be forced to do so with his passing?

I tried to post the audio clip of his speech, but my computer skills fall far below that of my brain’s desire to do cool things in my blog.  But since blogs are about the written word, here’s two excerpts of what Lou had to say that day.  They are words we might do well to think about in good times and bad.

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got.  Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.  I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and I have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.  Look at these grand men.  Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day.”

“Sure, I’m lucky.  When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat and vice versa, sends you a gift, that’s something.  When everybody down to the groundskeeper and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies, that’s something.  When you have a father and mother work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body, it’s a blessing.  When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed, that’s the finest I know.  So I close in saying that I might have had a bad break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”

I applaud you if your eyes are dry right now.  Mine aren’t.

So Joe went 2-4 that day and I have a wine to review, but wow…

The 2003 Santino Syrah from the Sierra Foothills was my at bat for last night.  I’m guessing that with the older vintage the winery was able to sell off the rest of their inventory to TJ’s, who had it priced at $4.99.

The wine had a slightly musty nose but a little chocolate poked it’s way through.  The cherries were dried on the palate (this wine may have had lusher fruit a few years ago) but overall this was a nice, easily drinkable wine.

SINGLE


Published in: on January 7, 2009 at 1:53 pm  Comments (2)  

Improv Blogging

Call it Blogger’s Block, hectic start of the year workload or just suburban ennui, I’ve been a little lean in the writing department lately.  I’ve got the wines to review, sure, but most of my enjoyment in being a hobbyist blogger is the creative process involved in hopefully being entertaining.

So what better way to get the juices flowing than abdicating all responsibility in the process and throwing it back to you, Daddy Winebucks reader.

Picture yourself on Melrose Blvd., in Los Angeles, the home of the world famous Groundlings.  I’ve come on stage and asked you to throw out any topic, which I’ll turn around and form into an improvosational blog post.

Come on people, it’s either that or a succession of under $5.00 wine reviews.  Help me, help you…

Published in: on January 6, 2009 at 12:48 pm  Comments (5)