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Wine Camp: Publishing online since 2003 - as always, a points-free zone
Photography by Craig Camp on Smug Mug
Nominated as “Best Wine Blog” by Saveur Magazine

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    Tuesday
    Feb022010

    Petrus Gets Bad Review from Wine Spectator

    2007 Petrus got 92 points from The Wine Spectator. I could not be more shocked to see The Wine Spectator trashing Petrus. However, that’s exactly what they did as any wine selling for $1300 is an abject failure at anything less than 100 points. You’d have to be a fool to bother to drink Petrus with such a rating - at least if you gave any credence to the 100 point scale.

    That’s the rub with the worthless pointy system - a $25 wine can get the same score as a $1300 wine thus implying anybody that drinks Petrus is an idiot. Well OK, anybody spending $1300 on a bottle of wine is a sucker, but the fact is that Petrus is as unique and distinctive as wine can be and such silly rankings miss that fact. You may have to be an idiot to buy Petrus, but you’re no such thing if you enjoy drinking it.

    At the top of the The Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2009 is the excellent Columbia Crest 2005 Columbia Valley Reserve rated 95 points by The Wine Spectator. I defy anyone with a palate to taste the 2007 Petrus against that 05 Columbia Crest and, without price as a factor, choose the Columbia Crest over the Petrus. Yet that is exactly what The Wine Spectator claims with their rankings. I’m also willing to bet that not one single Wine Spectator editor, including the one that gave the Columbia Crest 95 points, given the choice, would choose to drink (not buy) the Washington wine over the Petrus if they had to pick between the two. Yet, if they give any credence to their own system they would have to choose the Columbia Crest, which their own rating system ranks higher than Petrus.

    I’ll happily drink the Columbia Crest, but I’m not hypocritical enough to claim I prefer it over the Petrus. I would never spend $1300 for a bottle of wine as no wine is worth that much, but if you’re buying, just like the editors of The Wine Spectator would, I’ll take the Petrus.

     


    Wednesday
    Jan272010

    Oasi degli Angeli

    In 2003 I wrote, “Kurni is on a whole different level of being.” I achieved that level of being this weekend when I opened a bottle of 1999 Oasi degli Angeli Kurni. This micro-estate in Italy’s beautiful Le Marche is the vision and labor-of-love of Eleonora Rossi and Marco Casolanetti. Kurni is a perennial winner of Tre Bicchieri Awards in the Gambero Rosso and has become a true cult wine in Italy. The production of Kurni is measured in bottles instead of cases with a scant 4000 available to grace fine tables. Most of this treasure is grabbed up by Italian restaurants, but some bottles do find their way here. If you see one don’t pass it by because you may never find it again.

    Perhaps what is most interesting about this bottle is that it was from a difficult vintage and the wine that broke the string of Tre Bicchieri Awards that Kurni had achieved once again proving that vintage charts and wine ratings leave much to be desired. This 100% Montepulicano from their old vine vineyard is still a dark ruby and sizzles with acidity and deep, dark black fruit flavors. As vivacious as this wine is I think it is ready to drink. This is a wine at its zenith - that moment when bottle age has brought out the maximum complexity, but while the beauty of the fruit from which it was born still remains. The greatness that is Kurni is only achieved with age. In it’s youth it often seems just another oaky fruit bomb. It is only with age that it achieves its promise.

    Here is the link to my story on Oasi degli Angeli in 2003:
    http://www.winecampblog.com/journal/2006/2/26/oasi-degli-angeli-and-kurni.html


    Tuesday
    Jan262010

    Matt Kramer Drinking out Loud

    For a long time it has been clear to me that a subscription to The Wine Spectator is worthwhile if only because you get to read the the thoughtful wine writing of Matt Kramer, America’s wine conscience. Now Kramer has started an online wine column, Drinking out Loud, which is sure to be worth the price of admission. While I have had my issues with The Wine Spectator, any publication willing to print Kramer’s insightful commentary on wine can’t be all bad. 

     

    Posted via email from Wine Camp Blog/Posterous Edition

    Monday
    Jan182010

    Redux: the Risotto Lesson

    This article is an updated version of an article I wrote for eGullet.org a few years ago

    Risotto is rice in the spotlight - the star of the show. This is a very different concept than the way rice is usually used in the United States, as a backdrop, something to fill up the plate. Risotto is a classic dish of northern Italy and there are as many variations as there are ingredients available. What’s the big deal? Rice is rice, right? Wrong.

    Everything is special about Risotto. The rice, the ingredients and the way it is cooked makes it not only delicious, but the most elegant rice dish in the world. Risotto, like all Italian cooking, is first based on the quality of the ingredients. To make wonderful risotto you have to have just the right rice and a fresh tasting broth that brings out the flavors of the other ingredients. The right technique is also essential. Without it you end up with a rice mush. Forget those who argue for shortcuts like pressure cookers. There are no shortcuts to great risotto.

    Why would you want to take a shortcut? Making risotto is like therapy and much cheaper than lying on your shrink’s couch for an hour. The rhythmic and peaceful nature of making risotto has a mantra like effect. Perhaps this is the start of a new self-help book, “Kitchen Therapy, the way to spiritual enlightenment through stirring”. Risotto takes time. It is not hard to make, it just requires patience and a little care. Like all things involved with fine dining, risotto is not about speed. Not that it takes that long, only twenty minutes form the time you start cooking, but it requires your undivided attention for those twenty minutes.

    Unfortunately there is a lot of poor risotto sold in restaurants at high prices. If your risotto arrives at your table in less than twenty minutes you know they are cheating in the kitchen. Risotto made using shortcuts never has the texture and complexity of risotto properly made. Risotto is much more than rice carrying other flavors. If you can’t taste each grain of this special rice dish keep trying. The goal is to learn the technique and then start creating your own recipes.

    The Rice

    No you can’t use that big bag of rice sitting in your cabinet to make risotto. Risotto can be made from only three types of rice – all from Italy. Sometimes you see Arborio or one of the other types of Italian rice grown in the USA, but I say avoid them. To get stellar risotto you have to seek out the best Italian brands. Yes, that inexpensive box of Arborio at the grocery will work just find, but with a little more investment in time and money you will find brands that cook and taste better.

    The secret to risotto is in the way these types of Italian rice absorb liquid – in our case the broth. Each piece of the rice used for risotto has two characteristics:

    • A very soft starch on the outside that melts away from the kernel and makes gives the creamy texture to risotto.
    • A very hard inner starch that stays firm and gives the risotto its backbone – the ability to have in the finished dish an ‘al dente’ or firm texture to each grain of rice.

    This combination of creaminess (no actual cream required or wanted) and an individual bite for each grain is what makes risotto so special. You can only create this unique combination with three types of rice.

    Arborio

    Arborio is the Marilyn Monroe of rice, very amply endowed with the outer layer of starch that melts away, but it is a little light on the inner, hard starch that gives bite each kernel of rice. These characteristics produce the very rich and creamy risotto style of risotto loved in Lombardia, Emilia-Romagna and Piemonte. The famous Risotto Milanese was born of this rice. Warning: because of all the soft starch it is easy to overcook Arborio and end up with rice porridge instead of risotto. You always want to be able to taste each grain of rice. It is grown primarily in Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna. You must buy the ‘superfino’ grade of Arborio. The superfino name can be applied to only the plumpest grains.

    Vialone Nano

    The rice of choice in Veneto and Fruili. This is a short ugly little guy and is almost the opposite of Arborio in that it has a strong hard inner kernel and is light on the soft outer layer that melts away. This is perfect rice for those who really appreciate the ‘al dente’ style. While Arborio creates a very creamy risotto, Vialone Nano is more grainy and each kernel is very distinct in the dish. A perfect choice for seafood risotto and very fresh vegetables. To me this rice is so distinct from Arborio they are almost different dishes.

    Carnaroli

    The new kid on the block. Carnaroli only arrived on the Italian scene in 1945, the creation of a Milanese rice grower who created a hybrid by crossing Vialone Nano with a Japanese variety of rice. This is the most expensive or the three types of rice and combines the strengths of both Arborio and Vialone Nano. Carnaroli has more than enough the outside soft starch to make a creamy risotto, but also has a substantial amount of the hard inner starch to make an ‘al dente’ risotto with clearly defined kernels of rice.

    I recommend using and experimenting with all three until you establish your own personal preferences. With experience you will probably want to use all three depending on what kind of risotto you are making.

    The Broth

    Cookbook after cookbook suggests using chicken broth for risotto. With few exceptions a delicate beef based broth will give you a far more complex and interesting risotto. Some chefs argue that chicken broth can give a bitter flavor to risotto. I have used chicken broth with good results, but greatly prefer the flavor of risotto prepared with beef broth. This is true for all except seafood risotto which is cooked with a broth from the fish or shellfish in the dish.

    First an important definition, the broth you use for risotto is not stock. A stock is made by simmering meat or fish with bones and vegetables the resulting liquid is strained and often reduced to concentrate flavors. An Italian broth is often the byproduct of making a main dish like Il Lesso da Brodo, a boiled meat main course that creates a wonderful broth. This broth is much more delicate than the classic French style stock made with many bones to create the rich flavor that is the basis for sauces. A stock would produce flavors too intense for risotto as the flavors are concentrated as the cooking proceeds.

    The easy broth recipe:

    In a 6 to 8 quart pot of cold water add:

    • 2 carrots peeled and halved.
    • 2 stalks celery with leaves if possible
    • 1 onion, halved.

    Bring the water to a rolling simmer.

    • Add a 4 to 6 lb. chuck roast or other inexpensive cut of beef and three or four pieces of chicken (legs and thighs) and return to a full simmer. Make sure the meat is covered by at least of two inches of water.
    • Reduce heat to just simmering, cover loosely and skim any scum that comes to the surface.
    • After two hours add 2 tsp. sea salt.
    • Simmer gently for about 4 hours in total, or until the meat is very tender.
    • When done serve the meats hot or cold with your favorite condiments – like extra virgin olive oil and lemon or horseradish and mustard. Though not very Italian the beef makes great hot or cold sandwiches.
    • Strain the remaining broth and refrigerate overnight , discard the vegetables . When cold remove the congealed fat. If you don’t have time to refrigerate strain the broth through a cheese cloth that has been in the freezer for at least a half an hour.
    • If you prefer to use chicken stock use the above recipe replacing the beef with a 4 to 5 lb. whole chicken. For the decadent version of Risotto Milanese replace the beef with meaty beef shanks with marrow and add the marrow to the risotto.

    Serving Risotto

    Primo or secondo? Risotto can fill both roles with style. Following the traditional Italian manner of eating; first would come the antipasti (appetizers), followed by the primo (the first course usually a starch like pasta or risotto), which would be followed by the secondo (main course usually fish or meat). However we find risotto such a satisfying dish we often serve it as the main course. If you are having a formal Italian meal and going through all the courses, any of the these risotti as a first course will help make your dinner an elegant occasion. Because these are relatively rich risotto recipes, I would recommend a secondo featuring meat as fish may seem a little delicate after either of these risotti. Also if you follow with a meat course you can easily continue with the wine you matched with the risotto.

    In Milano, they often serve Risotto Milanese in a way that breaks the normal rules of primo and secondo. Instead of a first course the risotto becomes side dish (more equal partner) to Osso Buco, the famous braised veal shank dish of Lombardia. Of course this risotto is also served as a traditional first course both in restaurants and at home.

    Serving risotto as a main course is also a great opportunity as a prelude to a more elaborate cheese course to top off the meal. The textures and flavors of the cheeses are a great counterpoint to the risotto.

    Basic Risotto

    Serves 4 as a main course (secondo) or 8 as a first course (primo).

    Preparation time: 45 minutes (20 minutes cooking time)

    The basics*: the basic technique used for both recipes.

    • 10 or more cups hot meat broth - Yours, never canned. See the easy broth recipe above.
    • TIP: Keep the broth hot, almost boiling, over heat throughout the preparation
    • 1 small onion -finely chopped
    • TIP: Take the time to dice the onion very finely. I do not recommend a food processor.
    • 1/4 pound unsalted butter. I recommend Pulgra or a European style unsalted butter as it has a richer flavor than commercial American butter. Use the American butter if you can’t find the European style butter it will still be good.
    • TIP: Feel free to use a little more butter- the dish will be that much richer.
    • 2 cups - Italian Arborio or Carnaroli Rice - do not replace. You have to use these unique types of rice imported from Italy for the best risotto.
    • TIP: The rice is critical because these type of Italian rice absorbs a huge amount of liquid.
    • 2 glasses good dry white wine.
    • TIP: If you won’t drink it don’t put it in.

    The beginning:

    • In a large, large heavy sauté pan, melt all but 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat being sure not to let the butter brown.
    • TIP: I use a 5 quart Calphalon sauté pan as the handle helps steady the pan while stirring. I don’t like using a pot with sides that are very high.
    • TIP: Keep the pan as hot as you can throughout the process without burning or browning anything! As you add the hot broth it should immediately come to a light boil in the pan with the rice.
    • Once the butter is melted put the chopped onions in the pan and lightly sauté until just translucent never letting them brown.
    • From now on you must stir gently, but throughly and constantly until the rice is cooked.
    • TIP: I recommend a broad flat wooden spatula. Stirring should be slow and make sure to reach all parts of the pan.
    • Once the onions are just cooked add the rice and toss with the butter and onions. Cook and toss like this for about a minute.
    • Increase the heat to medium high and add 1 glass of the wine and cook until evaporated, drink the other glass while cooking the risotto.

    You have now reached the point of variations. The beginning and the finish is the same only the middle changes. You must have made up your mind before you get to this point which risotto you are going to make as the process must be continuous, not stop and go.

    Variation One—Risotto con Funghi (porcini mushrooms)


    The basics* as above plus:

    • Dried porcini mushrooms soaked in a bowl of warm water for 2 hours (I use just over half of the 1 oz. package), then chop half of them finely and half coarsely reserving the mushroom broth. Strain the mushroom broth through cheesecloth and reserve– heat before using. Dried mushrooms can be sandy and this sand will fall to the bottom of the bowl where you soaked—try to leave the sand in the bottom of the bowl when you strain the mushroom broth.
    • TIP: No you can’t use the bland fresh mushrooms they sell in the USA. If you can find fresh porcini count your blessings.
    • salt to taste (don’t forget when you add the cheese at the end it also adds salt).

    Continuing from the beginning above:

    • Once the wine has evaporated and you are drinking the other glass-
    • Add the hot mushroom broth and the chopped mushrooms.
    • Once the broth is absorbed by the rice began adding the HOT stock one ladle at time.
    • REPEAT patiently adding one ladle of hot broth at a time waiting until it is almost absorbed before adding the next ladle.
    • TIP: To make really good risotto you have to stand there and stir it slowly but continuously. I really mean it! Everything must be prepared and organized in advance.
    • From here to the finish is simple - keep stirring and keep adding the hot both as it cooks into the rice and keep drinking the wine in your glass.

    The process takes about 18 minutes from the time you add the first ladle of broth to the rice. Start tasting the rice after 15 minutes to check the cooking progress. Each grain should retain just a bite—not a crunch. To finish go to “finishing both” below.


    Variation Two—Risotto Milanese - Italian rice with saffron

    All of the basics* as above plus:

    • Saffron powder (at least 125 mg.) mixed with one cup of the hot broth for 5 minutes or, preferably, saffron threads (at least 300 mg.) mixed with a cup of the hot broth and soaked for at least 30 minutes (60 is better).
    • TIP: Saffron threads are best and are prettiest in the finished dish.

    Continuing from the basics* above:

    • Once the wine has evaporated and you are drinking the other glass.
    • Begin adding the hot broth one ladle at time.
    • After you have added one ladle of broth add either the saffron powder mixed with a ladle of hot broth or the saffron thread that have been soaking in a cup of the hot broth for at least 30 minutes.
    • REPEAT patiently adding one ladle of hot broth at a time waiting until it is almost absorbed before adding the next ladle.
    • TIP: To make really good risotto you have to stand there and stir it slowly but continuously. I really mean it! Everything must be prepared and organized in advance.
    • Salt to taste
    • From here to the finish is simple - keep stirring, add keep adding the hot both as it cooks into the rice and drink the wine in your glass. Start tasting the rice after 15 minutes to check the cooking progress. Each grain should retain just a bite—not a crunch.
    • The process takes about 18 minutes from the time you add the first ladle of broth to the rice.Start tasting the rice after 15 minutes to check the cooking progress. Each grain should retain just a bite—not a crunch.

    Finishing both:

    But when is the rice done? You have to taste it frequently after you have been blending in the broth for 15 minutes. The rice should be firm to the bite - not crunchy, but also not soft like the steamed rice we make in the United States. The risotto should also be quite moist - not dry at all. It will look and taste creamy.

    The Mantacare:

    • When the rice is barely short of being done remove from heat and blend in what is called the mantacare, the remaining butter and cheese - this adds a rich creamy texture to the risotto:
    • Blend in the remaining butter and
    • 1/2 of a cup grated Italian Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
    • TIP: The American versions of this cheese can’t match the real thing. Please after all this work use real Parmigiano Reggiano or in a pinch Grana Padano.

    Plate and sprinkle with a bit of freshly chopped parsley, preferable Italian flat leaf or chives.

    Serve immediately with additional freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

     

    Risotto and Wine

    Risotto Milanese and Risotto con Funghi are the perfect dishes to show off your finest mature red wines. These risotti are elegant dishes with complex, but not strong flavors that make them the perfect match with the refined flavors of mature wines.

    Classic accompaniments would be Barolo and Barbaresco and I could not agree more. I would caution against pairing the ultra-modern style of these wines with these dishes as overt oaky flavors tend to bury the subtle flavors of the risotto. Great Bordeaux and Burgundy wines will also find themselves quite at home beside these recipes.

    However, I like to stay with the wines of Piemonte with these two recipes. Barbaresco is somewhat more restrained than Barolo and is a good choice for earlier drinking. Don’t forget Nebbiolo d’Alba as it is produced from the same grape that makes Barolo and Barbaresco and drinks well much earlier. Dolcetto d’Alba and Barbera d’Alba/Asti (not the oaky ones) also work well.



    Monday
    Jan112010

    Homage to Homard

    IMG_0525.jpg?fileId=5370283 It was time to kill. I’d killed before, just a couple of weeks ago in fact. It was two of them that time, which made killing only one not such a big deal - though that guilt tinge never seems to totally disappear. Sometimes you have to do terrible things to make a great risotto. The ends are worth the means when it comes to lobster risotto. I have to admit, it makes you more connected to the dish, but I digress. This meal and the wine selected went back to our New Year’s Eve lobster feast that was chosen to go with a beautiful magnum of Henriot Blanc de blancs - a wonderful Champagne deserving an equally wonderful meal. Not wanting to waste the shells from those great lobsters, I froze them and, last weekend while I enjoyed the Sunday New York Times, simmered a lobster stock.

    At halftime of the Packers/Cardinals play off, I ran down to the outstanding Osprey Fish Market in Napa and picked up today’s victim. Upon arriving home the first thing I did was to dispatch the evenings main course with a sharp blade. While having no qualms, I see no reason to make them wait. As the Packers attempted their comeback, I cooked the just purchased lobster. Cooking a lobster is easy: a big enough pot of boiling water with plenty of heat. Bring the pot to a boil and put in the lobster (head first please if you’ve not dispatched it already), cover to bring it back to a boil fast and cook for 10 minutes for the first pound and about 3 more minutes for each additional pound. Remove the now rosy lobster and drain and enjoy or hold it at room temperature if you’re planning on making the risotto right away.

    The broth for the risotto could not be simpler, especially if you’ve just celebrated New Year’s Eve with a couple of beauties. Oddly enough, I don’t recommend the water you cooked the lobster in for a broth. I had frozen the shells from the feast and pulled them out and rinsed them off. Leaving them to defrost for a while, I melted some butter in a cast iron Dutch oven then quickly sauteed the shells for a few minutes being sure not to burn the butter. Then filling the pan with water, I added some sliced carrots, celery and a quartered onion. Next I added several large dollops of Vietnamese Fish Sauce for both salt and flavor and then simmered (not boiled) for an hour, then strained the broth into a clean stock pot, which you should keep at the simmer. Remove one cup of the hot lobster broth and add some saffron threads to steep.

    Now back to the just cooked lobster, carefully remove the claw and tail meat to keep them whole, while getting every last little bit of meat out of every leg and corner you can find. Divide the tail in two pieces lengthwise.

    Now you’re ready to start the risotto, but don’t start until everything is assembled and ready to go and everyone is ready to eat in twenty minutes.

    Into a sauté pan add 3 or 4 tablespoons of butter at medium heat. When foaming add one-half finely chopped onion and cook slowly until the onion is translucent, but not browned at all. Slightly increase the heat and add one-and-a-half fistfuls of Carnaroli rice (I have big hands) per person. The recipe here is for two as a main course and four as a first course, plan on one whole 2 pound lobster for two people as a main course. After a minute tossing the rice and butter (no browning!) add a cup or so of dry white wine and, stirring continuously, reduce to almost gone, but still moist. Now add the cup of broth with the saffron. Stirring continuously, but not violently, keep adding ladles of the hot broth as the broth in the pan reduces to the point where the rice is still very wet, but not soupy. After about fifteen minutes repeating these steps start to taste the rice. If it needs salt, add more Fish Sauce or salt. When the rice starts to taste cooked, but still “al dente” meaning it’s not too soft and still has some bite, it’s done. In other words each grain still has a firm texture, but the dish is creamy. Just as the rice comes to “al dente” and is creamy, not soupy, remove the risotto from the heat and add all the small pieces of lobster and 2 tablespoons of butter, swirling it into the rice as it melts. In a separate sauté pan melt several tablespoons of butter and briefly sauté the claw meet and the split tail. Divide the risotto into dishes and top with the claw and tail meat and freshly chopped parsley or chives. No Parmigiano please, not with seafood.

    What wine for such luxury? That’s easy, Chablis. A white wine loaded with complexity, but with enough backbone and acidity to stand up to such a rich dish. For our dinner, the 2007 Jean-Marc Brocard, Chablis Domaine Sainte Claire could not have been more perfect. Imported by the always reliable Martine’s Wines, this wine was nothing short of gorgeous. A finer chardonnay you’ll not find for the money and, if you’ve come to hate chardonnay, this is a wine that will make you fall back in love with the variety. The aromas mix fresh green apples, kiwi and a racy minerality that challenges and refreshes both the nose and palate. The firm backbone of acidity carries the intense, but restrained fruit. Finished with a screw-cap, this may be a modern package, but it is a classic Chablis. With rich seafood I like a wine that provide counterpoint and this firm beauty lifted our risotto to new heights.

    Chablis is a homage to homard.

    Tuesday
    Dec152009

    Gracing My Table

    Grace, elegance, delicacy finesse: wine attributes not much treasured these days. Punch you in the face pointy pounders get all the glossy headlines. In the same way such wines anesthetize my palate, the heavy food required to stand up to these wines with glandular issues bloats us into a a culinary world that Botero would have painted. 

    Then along comes a svelte, subtle beauty that reminds you that sometimes the experience of consumption is improved if it requires your brain to become more involved in the process instead of a sedated bystander. Such a wine touched me at a lunch at Chez Panisse recently. This very non-Botero like wine was the 2006 Menetou Salon Rouge of Domaine Philippe Gilbert. Not a place name likely to be familiar to many, but this almost moving wine comes from an area unknown by Americans for its wonderful sauvignon blanc (which I also love), which seems famous compared to its pinot noir, which no one knows they grow. In this relatively obscure Loire region the team of enologist Jean-Phillippe Louis and owner Philippe Gilbert have crafted a true work of art and, only due to the less than famous name, a bargain. This property started bio-dynamic agriculture in 2006 so, as good as this wine is, upcoming vintages must be staggering. 

    This beautiful pinot noir graces your table with its almost exotic floral, spiced aromatics and flavors that touch your palate with the complex thrust and parry of a champion fencer rather than the Braveheart broadsword of so many wines today. If purity is what you want in your pinot noir you’ll find it here - and find it for less than $25.

    Wednesday
    Dec092009

    Death of the Wine Magazine

    You walk into the wine shop to buy a bottle of Champagne for New Year's Eve 2011. Greeted by a wall of unfamiliar brands you whip out your iPhone 5Gs and start scanning bar codes on the bottles. Your browser pops open with pages of reviews and commentary about the producer and vintage. There are dozens of reviews on CellarTracker and just as many posts on wine blogs. Quickly you make a selection and head off to the party.

    This is not a guess of what's going to happen in the future, it is what is going to happen and is in fact happening now. The technology exists and it's in use. What you won't see on your phone when looking for recommendation will be scores from publications like The Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate. Their data resides in "walled gardens" and you have to pay to see what they think about that bottle of Champagne you wanted to buy. At some point they will be faced with offering their content for free or, as mentioned in my previous post, sliding into oblivion.

    The biggest threat to the point porn of traditional print wine media has to be the model employed by that IT wizard of the wine industry Eric Levine and his CellarTracker website. There some 89,000 users have posted over 1 million wine reviews. Instead of ratings from a "wine expert" those who visit CellarTracker can often get dozens of reviews on a single wine from people who taste wine just like they do. Sure there are worthless notes from people that don't have a clue, but they are overwhelmed by those that take their comments on CellarTracker very seriously. This is a powerful resource that is comprehensive, free and available to anyone, anywhere with an Internet connection or a smart phone in their hand.

    Wineries themselves are taking things into their own hands instead of just rolling the dice and hoping for big points in The Wine Spectator or The Wine Advocate. Notably Murphy-Goode with Hardy Wallace and St. Supery with Rick Bakas hired on as full-time new media hired guns have been aggressively following new marketing paradigms. Recent travels by Bakas showed the future of wine marketing as he did "Tweet-ups" around the country gathering small groups of wine lovers together to directly hear the story and taste the wines of St. Supery. Certainly such direct contact generates more consumer brand loyalty than just getting points and placing an ad in a wine magazine. When there's not a good reason for a winery to place an ad in a wine magazine that's big trouble for the wine publishing industry.

    This confluence of technology, new marketing techniques and the growth of consumers that prefer to get advice from their "friends" rather than experts upon high spells trouble for the big wine media of today. They are just not needed in the same way anymore - by both the consumer and the producer. It's safe to say that in not so many years the big glossy wine magazines will go the way of Gourmet Magazine. This will happen not because of the quality of their content, but because the market has changed around them.

    Oddly enough the 100 point scale, which built these established wine publications may be what they need to abandon to stay alive. Rankings, points and tasting notes will be easy to come by and free. What will be needed, and worth paying for, will be real wine journalism and wine writing. Great reporting and quality writing are things all to rare and people are willing to pay for things that are rare and precious.

    Posted via email from Wine Camp Blog/Posterous Edition

    Tuesday
    Nov172009

    Cabernet Colors - November in Yountville

    Cabernet Colors - November in Yountville

    Posted via email from Wine Camp Blog/Posterous Edition

    Tuesday
    Nov172009

    Photo Camp: Fall colors - Napa November

     

    Fall colors - Napa cabernet vines near Yountville on a November morning.

    Posted via email from Wine Camp Blog/Posterous Edition

    Thursday
    Nov122009

    Last harvest - Cabernet vines ripped out after harvest 2009

    Last harvest - Cabernet vines ripped out of a Yountville vineyard after harvest 2009.

    Posted via email from Wine Camp Blog/Posterous Edition

    Monday
    Nov092009

    Ripasso

    Smooth. Is there a smoother red wine made than Valpolicella? Add a touch of ripasso richness and you get a great wine bargain. Ripasso, the process of adding the pressed grapes from Amarone to Valpolicella causing it to referment, elevates Valpolicella from a lovely everyday wine to one worthy of special occations.

    The 2006 Capitel della Valpolicella Ripasso from Montrasor is such a wine. Ripe, round and velvety without a touch of heaviness, it delivers an excellent wine at a very fair price - under $20.

    Sunday
    Nov012009

    Scary Harvest

    Cabernet sill on the vine on Halloween

    Posted via email from Wine Camp Blog/Posterous Edition

    Tuesday
    Oct272009

    Last of Summer

    A fresh tomato salad from The French Laundry Garden at Bouchon in Yountville.

    Posted via email from The Wine Camp Blog

    Monday
    Oct262009

    Dawn over Yountville 10/26/09

    Late October dawn over Yountville

    Posted via email from The Wine Camp Blog

    Sunday
    Oct252009

    Late October dawn at The French Laundry Garden

    October dawn at The French Laundry Garden

    Posted via email from The Wine Camp Blog

    Friday
    Oct232009

    Mixed Blacks

     

    Mixed blacks, an old term that used to be the backbone of wines like Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy. It was a catch all phrase for varieties that did not command a premium like those that could be bottled under their own name. It also referred to a very old way of planting as farmers would plant many different varieties in their vineyards so they wouldn’t have all their grapes in one basket - if one variety had a bad year perhaps the others would do better. The ‘mixed blacks’ were the bottom of the totem pole and got bottom dollar for the farmer. Today that’s turned on its head as these old mixed planting vineyards have become a national treasure of old vines and interesting varieties.


    Girard Winery has taken full advantage of one of these vineyards producing their 2006 Girard Mixed Blacks from a century old vineyard with a mixed planting of syrah, zinfandel, petite sirah, grenache, mourvedre, carignane and a few other varieties whose identity remain a mystery. All the varieties are co-fermented (always an interesting idea) and aged in a blend of French (85%) and American oak for eighteen months. What a wine this is! Loaded with explosive black fruit and layered with earthy touches of porcini and smoked meats, it fills the mouth without being heavy. Girard has avoided the ponderous, one dimensional character of so many “old vine” wines from these varieties. A crisp acid bite keeps this wine alive and it will remind Rhone lovers of a good Cornas or Crozes Hermitage, of course with an added dose of ripe California fruit. 

    Too few of these great old vineyards survived the rush to plant more fashionable varieties. It’s great to see a winery give such an old treasure its due.

    Posted via email from craigcamp’s posterous

    Thursday
    Oct222009

    Chave Bargains

     

    Chave and bargain don’t usually go together and indeed this is one of the most expensive Cotes du Rhone wines you’ll find, but it’s worth every dime. I found the 2004 Chave Mon Coeur Cotes du Rhone tucked away on a back shelf for $20 and it was indeed a bargain. The extra few years in bottle has amplified its personality, which is rich with brooding notes of bacon, butcher shop and black pepper layered over lush, intense black fruit. It’s wonderful when great winemakers like Chave use their considerable skills to produce not only great wines, but affordable ones.

    Posted via email from craigcamp’s posterous

    Wednesday
    Oct212009

    Vielles Vignes under $20

     2006 Domaine La Milliere Vieilles Vignes Cotes du Rhone

    Old vines, not filtered, under $20 and delicious, what more could you want? Actually this wine is more than delicious offering real complexity and flavor and no simple fruity stuff either, but earthy, warm complex fruit with a structured backbone that makes this wine exceptional with food. How do they do it? They have to grow and make the wine, ship it to the USA, put a importers markup on it followed by a wholesalers then a retailers markup and it still costs under $20 or $30 in a restaurant. It’s damn embarrassing for us American winemakers. Grab cases of this beauty and enjoy.

     

    Posted via email from craigcamp’s posterous

    Wednesday
    Oct212009

    Feds Stop Fighting Medical Marijuana Laws

    The recent decision by the Federal Government to accept state medical marijuana laws seems to have caused things to go out of control in California.

    Friday
    Oct092009

    Waiting For "Just So"

    It’s a waiting game. We’re waiting for “just so”. Simple ripeness is not enough. Everything has to be just right - sugars, acids and phenolics all have to be “just so”. It’s a tough balance to achieve and in many vintages, like Godot, it never arrives. Because nature rarely offers perfection harvest is usually a battle of nerves - ours vs. Mother Nature’s and Mother Nature always wins. For small production wines like Cornerstone it’s all about precision harvesting. We focus all of our attention on small blocks of vineyards and strive to harvest at the moment of perfection when everything is “just so”. This year it seems that Godot himself has actually arrived as each of our vineyards has been coming in at the perfect point. Picking at perfection is only attained by being in the vineyards and knowing your vines. Pictured above, Cornerstone’s winemaker Jeff Keene (left) and consulting winemaker Peter Franus walk our Hardman Road Block in southern Napa near Silverado Country Club. We’ve picked half of our Cabernet Sauvignon now, but this block, a cooler site, is perhaps a week or more away. Indeed things are looking very, very good in Napa.

    Posted via email from craigcamp’s posterous

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