Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mr. Natural Wine

Cartoonist Robert Crumb's best known character, Mr. Natural, was a cosmic con man, a spouter of acid-overdose aphorisms, a bearded pervert:  perhaps the perfect spokesman for the latest wine trend to foam out the bunghole of a diseased barrel and cover the Internet.  You've heard of organic wines, sulfite free wines, and biodynamic wines, so you're ready for "Natural" wine. Right?
To review: "Organic" wine regulations vary by nation, but generally mean no added sulfur in the winery.  Because of this, the wines don't last long as a rule; while a small amount of added sulfur was allowed under the original definition, now the US limit is 10 parts per million, a fraction of what's in yogurt and dried fruit. "Biodynamic" means burying a cow horn full of magic crystals in the vineyard, and paying a license fee to a mercenary organization that follows the ravings of a dead Nazi lunatic.
"Natural wine" means all, some, or none of the above, but it does suggest that anyone making wine who doesn't use this term is making "unnatural" wine:  Monsanto Merlot, not to be consumed by those not wearing a tinfoil hat.
Might I suggest as the next buzz term "Raw" wine, meaning wine that was never cooked - never left in a hot UPS truck for three hours, or in a warm kitchen for three days.  Or it could mean grape juice, to which you are welcome to add pure, organic ethanol.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tasting room closure

     After almost two years, I've decided to close the Zeppelin Wine Hangar, which was officially the Red Zeppelin Winery tasting room, and unofficially the Stillman tasting room.  I will be using a different venue for special wine tasting appointments, but I'm not disclosing the location unless contacted by an existing club member (a friend, family, fan or stalker) or someone vouched for by same.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Out of the archives: a wine competition judging story from 1997.


This took place at one of the (then, it's fallen on hard times)  larger wine competitions in America, the New World International, where the late Jerry Mead (although he was alive at the time) had made me chairman of the panel that rated the higher priced classes of Pinot Noir.  Mastermind, counterpart, and cohort, we unanimously and independently selected an outstanding example of said varietal as the best of the most expensive wines, and picked an excellent wine as the best of the second-costliest class of Pinots. These wines were then forwarded to a “super-panel” made up of the three of us, the three-member panel that tasted the two classes of cheap Pinots, and some guy from Hawaii or somewhere that turned out to be a pervert.  Our job:  select the Number One Pinot Noir. 
     We tasted the four wines, and voted as follows:  first place wine, one point; second place, two points; etc.  Although the outstanding wine got four of seven first-place votes, it came in second, as one of the other panel’s judges voted it last place.  This judge, who was from a European country not known for viticulture (and tulips make poor wine) argued that the outstanding wine was terrible, that it would not have been considered worthy of an award in any European wine competition, blah, blah, blahHe seemed to be rather excited.  As a run-off vote would have given “our” wine  (I was its loudest champion, of course)  the prize, this person wanted to settle the matter based upon the initial vote. 
     We summoned the Chief Judge, who ruled in my favor on both wine and procedure despite the fact that the stubborn Dutchman was a buddy of his.  The winning wine turned out to be the 1995 Fess Parker Pinot Noir, Reserve.  Later, I asked the wooden-shoed judge if wine made from Pinot Noir didn’t deserve as much or more more stylistic leeway than other wines.  I said, “Look at the variation in red Burgundy.”  He said, “I hate Burgundy.”

Band practice

Band practice