Saturday, January 17, 2009


I received an E-mail from a friend of mine asking me if I had heard of wine bars with pre-paid cards and gas systems meting out samples of wine. "Is it heresy?", she asked.

My Response:

I have heard of wine bars like this, they have been around for years. People love them, especially people who like gadgets, gizmos and technology in general. In the 1940's and 1950's the same type of thing was very popular in New York with food. They were called Automats. They looked like a room full of post office boxes. You would drop in your dime and open a little door and pull out a sandwich.

As the idea of eating a post office box egg salad sandwich seems unpleasant to us now, drinking wine from little spigots will probably seem unpleasant to future generations. There is a novelty aspect, the longevity of which is questionable. I'm sure it was once very exciting for people to pump their own gas or run an elevator by themselves.

Furthermore, I'm uncertain if these places ever become the fine dining destination their owners hope for. My feeling is that they do well in an area with heavy foot traffic, and within close proximity of other restaurants. For many, this type of establishment becomes a pre- or post-dinner stop. In L.A., with a large affluent populace of West Coast types milling around, a restaurant like this can do quite well. The point of business is money, and these things can and do make money.

As a serious wine drinker however, it's not for me. More often than not places like this serve 72 different brands of wine, not 72 types of wine. The difference is huge, although would likely be overlooked on the West Coast. For instance, to taste Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc and Stag's Leap Sauvignon Blanc head to head is unenlightening. However tasting, Sancerre and Pouilly Fume head to head is quite.

Then there is the issue of fatigue. Maybe they put Gaja Barbaresco on the wine list just to silence assholes like me. I would still be thinking, how long has that bottle been open? how clean are the lines?

The advantage of buying wine from a machine instead of a person escapes me. I don't find it exciting to drink with the same type of card I use at the laundromat to wash my clothes.

Heresy? No, a gimmick yes.

Now if you are going to tell me I'm an arrogant prick, save your breath I know.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Chateau Beaucastel

One of my favorite wines of all time, if for no other reason than I have a deep history with the wine going back many vintages. Once, I even did a vertical tasting with Marc Perrin himself of the 2004, 2003, 2001, 1995, 1989, 1985, 1983, 1978, as well as several vintages of the Rousanne V.V., including the 2002 which was remarkable for what was by all accounts a disasterous year in the Southern Rhone.

Beaucastel ages better than any wine I've ever had, there I said it. The 1978 and 1983 are still drinking beautifully, they get finer and lighter as they age obviously, but still show no sign of being in decline. I've taken Ch. Beaucastel head to head with Ch. Rayas and even once put Beaucastel 1983 vs. Ch. Latour 1982. When the dust settles and you get past the fame of the other suitors for your palate, I still prefer Beaucastel, it is my tongue's favorite lover.

There is an intrinsic advantage to that scope of varietal blending, in terms of complexity, and depth of flavor. Then there's Mourvedre! What can I say about Mourvedre that hasn't been said before in song and story. It imparts an earthy gaminess that appeals to those who like things like venison, wild boar and the smell of sex. Ch. Beaucastel may often lack the firm burnished surfaces of Ch. Latour or the absolute high toned clarity in Ch. Rayas, but for me, it is simply wine made manifest.

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