Monthly Archives: February 2008

Am I professional enough for CellarTracker?

I spent many hours this weekend geeking my ass off on CellarTracker. If you are not yet familiar with this means of exhaustive wine cataloging, CellarTracker is a website that allows a user to log all the bottles in her cellar, including such details as when a bottle was purchased, how much it cost, when it should be drunk, where it’s being stored, et cetera ad infinitum.

Age-ableThis was necessary because I have finally been allowing myself to purchase wine. Not that I haven’t been buying the wine I’ve been tasting for you lo these last months — but a lot of my tasting has been in events and at wine bars. I have not until recently been able to afford to keep more than about 6 bottles around the house.

And look at me go! I learned, after pulling all my bottles out of the pantry and reorganizing them via the interwebs, that after relaxing the old purse strings for a mere 2 months, I have over 40 bottles in storage, to the tune of over $500. I have clearly been carried away, especially considering that almost half of my “cellar” is comprised of inexpensive, everyday bottles. Considering how much wine I drink on a weekly basis (not that much), the only word that comes to mind is ridonkulous, gentle reader.

Mostly everyday drinkingNow I need more room. As you’ll see in the photos (finally, I get to show you my rack!), I’m keeping wines organized through a combined system of 12-bottle cases and shippers. Classy, eh? Nothing but the best at Wine Scamp World Headquarters. No, seriously — Mr. Scamp is an accomplished welder and is planning out a dilly of a rack for me, which will allow my collection, such as it is, to top out at 60 bottles. Cross your fingers for me.

But that’s not why I gathered you all here this evening — the subject at hand relates to another aspect of the coolness of CellarTracker. The site allows users to share their own tasting notes in the Personal and Community Tasting section, as well as the tasting notes they’ve found from wine critics in the Professional Tasting section.

Ah ha! I can see I’ve got you now. Where do I put my tasting notes? Do I include the notes I’ve written for Wine Scamp in the Professional Tasting section, all up in the face of Robert Parker and Stephen Tanzer? Or do I write separate tasting notes in the Personal and Community Section, a la Dr. Debs?

There are long, fascinating discussions on the blogosphere on this subject. Check out this post on Lenndevours, this one on Catavino and yet another at Fermentation. (There’s an interesting Catavino post regarding Cellartracker and tasting notes in general, if you’ve got the time.) Just so you have a full grasp of the details, I publish this blog via a small business, DBA Wine Scamp, and accept paid advertising on the site. This blog does represent, quixotically or no, an attempt to make money from my writing. It has not yet even begun to turn a profit, but money exists in the equation. I have a day job, of course, which involves some writing, but not in the wine business. I have a Creative Commons license.

So here is where I solicit your opinion — do the wine tasting notes I pen here at Wine Scamp International belong in the Professional Tasting section of CellarTracker? Am I enough of a pro?

Tasting Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

Found this wine at the Cowboy Steakhouse in Kerrville, a city I rarely visit except during the Folk Festival. Fredericksburg is really my Hill Country dining destination of choice, but when I saw in Kerrville’s dining brochure that this restaurant had the most extensive wine list in the Hill Country, I just had to go.

Truth in advertising, y’all. I could have been more impressed by the food (my strip steak was correctly cooked to temp but could have been more much flavorful), but the wine list at the Cowboy Steakhouse is really impressively extensive. According to their website, they’ve got over 600 labels on the list, and that’s quite plausible based on the list I saw. They also have multiple verticals (a collection of the same wine from many different years), some dating back to the 80s. The Ferris family has been in the restaurant business since 1977, so I suppose all that collecting could have happened slowly and over time. At least I hope so, or I hope they have pockets as deep as Micheal Bloomburg.

Leeuwin 97 CSAfter dithering extensively over the pages and pages of wine available, I found a 1997 Cabernet from Leeuwin Estate in the Margaret River district. They make the best Australian white wines I’ve ever tasted, but I confess I had never been blown away by their Cab. Nonetheless, I was excited to find this aged red on the wine list for only $59.

Great deep black ruby in color; little no brick red on the edges. First up in the glass, menthol, redfruits, pine tar and cassis show in the nose. The palate showed great smooth raspberry jam and a hint of red Swedish Fish. The finish of green tobacco and cigar box is remarkably smooth, with rounded, soft tannins.

As it opens up, a musky limburger aroma shows up and the menthol strengthens into eucalyptus and cedar. Some green olive scents are evident, as well. The palate develops into licorice and coffee, with kirsch, graphite, green pepper and black olive. The flavors are exceptionally well-integrated. With steak, even the smooth tannins recede, and a cocoa-cassis syrup element peeks around the corner.

Leeuwin Estate was part of Robert Mondavi’s  attempt to break into the Australian wine region in 1972.  Dennis and Tricia Horgan founded this winery, located in arguably the best wine region in the country, with Mondavi’s guidance.  They have three labels: “Siblings,” meant for drinking young, “Prelude,” meant for drinking within a few years of release, and “Art Series,” meant for aging.

The winemaker’s notes predict an aging period of 7-10 years, but the 1997 Leeuwin Cabernet Sauvignon is in its prime at eleven years and counting. If you can find any (and it looked like the Cowboy Steakhouse had about 10 bottles left), I suggest you run, don’t walk, for a corkscrew.

Label image lifted from http://www.leeuwinestate.com.au/

Tasting Pellegrini Family Vineyards

I heartily recommend the Saturday tastings at the Austin Wine Merchant. They’re free and feature interesting, stylish wines that you probably haven’t heard of or tasted before. I have a slight infatuation with the shop right now, I’ll admit, which will likely fade as I start putting out my wine shop feelers closer to my new workplace, Anderson and Mopac. Yes, I know: Grapevine. We’ll see; I could have been much more impressed the last time I was there.

I tasted 6 wines at the AWM last Saturday, all from the Pellegrini Family Vineyards in California. Robert Pellegrini and Moreno Panelli were there, representing the winery, as was Alison Smith of Texacali Wine Company, who represents Pellegrini in Texas. Ali is a fellow blogger, writing about her experience running her small wine sales and marketing business at the Texacali Wine Trail. She’s a charming woman who reps an interesting portfolio, and it was a pleasure to meet her.

Wines are listed in order of tasting: Continue reading

Winebat Tales: Australia

This was my first Winebat blind tasting since I started coming off of the cedar fever, and at the end of the night I didn’t think I was really 100%, olfactory-wise. Damon really Brought It as far as wines in this tasting, and none of them really blew me away.

Since we were tasting wines from a region, rather than a single varietal, we did a flight of whites and a flight of reds. This was a neat exercise in blind tasting to detect varietal, and I did medium-OK considering my nasal handicap. Wines listed in order of preference within each flight: Continue reading

Damn you, big glasses!

Another story for the “don’t hate the playa; hate the game” files here at Wine Scamp International: 

Professor Steve Allsop, whose National Drug Research Institute study concludes that larger wine glasses mislead wine drinkers, says this causes consumers to drink more than they intend to, as reported in an article in Australia’s Herald Sun.

Australia’s Department of Health defines a standard glass of wine as 150 ml, about 5 ounces.  Maximum recommended alcoholic intake for a woman is 2 glasses of wine; for a man, it’s 4.  The study showed that when people poured what they considered an average serving of wine, they ended up with 6 to 10 ounces in the glass.   Thus the Australian public over-serves itself with blithe ignorance, especially women.  I can only assume it’s especially women because we’re not supposed to drink as much as men.  Certainly it couldn’t be because we’re out of control and need male scientists and politicians to teach us how to modulate our behavior.  Great, glad we cleared that up.

Australia’s federal government is jumping into action to address this problem of heavy pouring by including a standard drink logo on bottles of wine to tell people how many servings are in the container.  That works really well with Americans and snack food, as anyone who counts out one 10-cracker serving of Wheat Thins for their afternoon snack knows.  So it’s good to see we’re setting a good example for the world with our abstemious approach to food portions.

I agree that it’s easy to pour a little heavy at home, especially into a glass big enough to swirl your wine in, but can we just cool it with the puritanical hullaballoo?   If we can trust women enough to assign them the job of feeding our children and patriarchs, surely we can trust them to pour the perfect portion of wine for every occasion.  Can’t we?

Big servings of wine cause alcohol abuse, says MP

According to an article in the Guardian Unlimited, Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament Greg Mulholland wants to force pubs in England to sell smaller servings of wine.

Evidently, some pub chains in England used to offer three different sized pours: small (125 ml/4 oz), medium (175 ml/6 oz), and large (250 ml/8 oz). Mulholland himself used to work for a pub chain which did away with the 4 oz. pours, saying “bigger glasses equal higher prices and more profits.” So now most pubs only sell 6 and 8 oz. servings, forcing people to drink more wine than they normally would, to Mulholland’s mind.

Am I a moron, or do the Brits just do it differently than we do? Back when I was helping restaurants set their prices, you wanted as small a pour as you could get away with, so you could sell more glasses from a bottle. A 750 ml bottle will serve five 5 oz. pours or four 6 oz. pours. If an 8 oz. pour is the norm in England, then those pubs are only selling 3 glasses per bottle. Either their glass prices are ridiculously high, or they’re doing it wrong. Continue reading

Blah, Blah, Blah Wine

Dr. Debs’ interesting post at Good Wine Under $20 about jargon got me thinking about the way we communicate about wine. Her point to ponder was whether “jargon (technical terms about wine), dialects (terminology common to a group of wine writers), and idiolects (terms that a single wine writer comes up with; if sufficiently popular, idiolects can get shared and become dialects)” actually obstruct our ability to communicate about wine.

Jeff’s post on Good Grape got the old wheels churning even harder; for him, Dr. Deb’s post dovetailed with a magazine article in Sante that he read about how menu descriptions affect how we eat in restaurants. As Jeff sums it up, a dish that’s more elaborately described on the menu will be described by those who’ve eaten it as “more appealing, tastier and the restaurant as being trendier and more contemporary.”

This would seem to argue, then, for more elaborate tasting notes, rather than less. If we are trying to get more Americans drinking wine (and we are; you’ll thank us when you’re older), then hopefully by introducing it in elaborate, flowery language will make everyone have better, fonder memories of their wine drinking experiences… and thus drink more wine.

As you may know, if you’re a regular here at the Wine Scamp, elaborate is not a problem for me. And as I commented on Dr. Deb’s site, one of the reasons I love wine so much is that gorgeous juxtaposition of sensation and language that is the tasting note. My first love being poetry, I have always been fascinated by our attempts to communicate the indescribable; emotions and sensations are so subjective that the attempt to encapsulate them in words seems almost impossible. So things get fancy, words get outlandish, and jargon and dialects are born.

Seems like the perfect opportunity for a Friday poll, which I can’t seem to get to work in this post, but which you can vote on in the sidebar to your right.  Sound off!