Archive for August, 2008

Finding New Wines

August 26, 2008

As consumers of wine we have no shortage of choices. Decision’s can be challenging, whether we are in the New Zealand, California or French wine sections, our options might include:

  1. Subscribe to the major publications and go shopping with their recommendations
  2. Get to know and trust a retailer or sommelier and follow their lead
  3. Close your eyes and grab

Which method is best is really determined by what we want our wine experiences to be. If we just want something to drink then it probably does not matter what the selection process is. For others the reviews in the big publications will be useful . And for others it will involve a sense places and people.

Here are some ideas for those who want a connection to people and places. If you are of a certain age you will have memories of shopping for records. Albums had creative cover art and detailed liner notes on the back. Because of the physical size of a record album it was possible to have lots of information about the people, recording location and this all became part of the buying process.

As we flipped thru albums and read notes we often learned about guest musicians who sat in for a song or two. Sometimes these were well known musicians or unknown players. Their appearances introduced them as musicians who had something to offer. As we flipped thru and read the notes we would see patterns repeat themselves, session players showing up in different places or even having their own albums. Buying these newly discovered musicians would lead us to new places and created new listening opportunities. It was usually a success and the pattern repeated. More liner notes and more new discoveries.

So it is with wine too.

If you have visited Marlborough New Zealand you may have visited and tasted wines from Domaine Georges Michel. As you read the liner notes you learn Georges is French and had the good fortune to have his New Zealand wine project guided by Guy Brac de la Perriere, a man from one of France’s oldest wine making dynasties. Locally, New Zealander Peter Saunders  was the assistant wine maker working and learning from Georges and Guy. Today, Peter produces his own wine in Waipara.

The patterns continue today with Georges daughter Swan providing the winemaking leadership.  Swan has benefited from working not only with Guy but also with winemakers Patrick Valette in Bordeaux and in Burgundy with Clos des Lambray

Do you see these patterns creating choices for finding new wines? The patterns go both ways and include people and regions.

Or, maybe you visit the Central Coast region in California and you notice Bob Lindquist and Jim Clendenen have family members with their own labels. Verdad and Cold Heaven Cellars. Should be fun and worth finding.

These patterns are everywhere and I believe a great way to find new wines. This path may or may not go thru the big publications or even the better retailers and sommeliers. For some this will make the path more interesting as it is self directed.

To find new wines this way we need to take the time to find out something about the people behind the wine. It circles back to the earlier questions about who grew the grapes, who made the wine and what do you know about them? Good questions guiding us in the treasure hunt for new wines.

Decisions 2008

August 18, 2008

Daily we are bombarded with messages telling us to do something in 2008 to change the world. I wonder if these four year cycles really change the world or just the cycle?

Here is a decision to consider and implement in 2008. Next time you walk into a wine store ask these two questions:

  1. who grew the grapes and who made this wine?
  2. what do you know about them?

The reason I suggest these questions is they will provide you with some insight into what the sales person knows about the wine and introduce you to wines that are made by real people in real places. I believe it will lead you to the wine shops and sommeliers that are really excited and interested in wine. We should also watch for wine writers who make a habit of sharing the people side of wine too.

Before you call this silly, do it at least 5 times with different locations or people. Watch the responses and see who is really connected to the inventory or just capable of pointing to the ratings tag by the wine.

So what, you say again. As we all try and find the reasons for what we buy, I feel wines made by real people are wines with something unique and special about them. The challenge is trying to uncover them and I sense the path runs right thru the better writers, retailers and sommeliers around the world.

These are the people who delight in helping you find special wines to share with friends and food. Wines that make your evenings memorable. Whether it is a wine from California, Italy, New Zealand or wherever, these new friends will help.

Too often the conversation goes either two ways.

  1. at the cash register “did you find everything you need” or
  2. “how much do you want to spend”

Think about this for a moment. In the first situation it means there was most likely no one around to help. If a used car sales person asked question #2 very few of us would spend our money with that individual. For some reason it is OK in the wine shop.

I’ll leave you with my final thought and it seems the language of wine as evolved to a point where it might need a tune up and my two questions might be one way to improve your daily glass of wine.

  1. who grew the grapes and who made this wine?
  2. what do you know about them?

Moat Building

August 14, 2008

photo credit © Ron McFarland 2008

I recently had the opportunity to enjoy 8 days walking thru the Weminuchi Wilderness in Southern Colorado with two llama’s to carry the load.

This enabled us to enjoy cheeses from France, Spain and Colorado and canteens filled with wines from New Zealand, France and California. All very civilized.

As I enjoyed these foods and wines from around the world I thought about the evolving conversation concerning the need and in some cases urgency to “buy locally”. Is this really possible? Will we become villages with a cobbler, a butcher, a dressmaker and so on?

Is this even good for people and the planet to return to a mode of living from centuries ago?

As someone involved with importing and selling fine wine from New Zealand in the USA this has lots of meaning and implications for our young business. This is why I pay attention to this conversation.

We clearly are at a transition point and in a time of searching for solutions. My feeling is by becoming global collaborators rather than global villagers we will end up in a better place. By working together far more creative solutions will be found and at a faster pace.

Or should forward thinking people be planning to reinstate “moat building” to the curriculum?

photo credit © Richard Replin 2008

I think I know the answer and doubt we will give up our enjoyment of foods and wines from around the world or have stay at home vacations.

We do need to pay attention to the details to get this right.

New Ideas for Rediscovering Food and Wine

August 7, 2008


I came across Michelle May’s M.D. blog recently and it really reasonated with me. As my journey in importing and selling New Zealand wine has evolved I have become much more attuned to the eating and wine drinking habits of Americans.

In my opinion, many American taste buds have been shaped by twinkie’s and ketchup and this has influenced trends in wine flavors. This could be one of the factors why so many wines have a cookie cutter profile.

Michelle May M.D. provides some very simple ideas about rediscovering the joys of food, wine and friends.

Let me know what you think of her ideas.

Visual Magic

August 5, 2008

How does a landscape this stunning impact grapes grown in a location like this in New Zealand?

It certainly has to influence the people who work in the vineyards and wineries and lead to something special.

photo credit ©Allan Johnston 2008