Wine information is beamed and broadcast to the masses from the temple mount. It’s never been easier to stockpile wine knowledge like it’s all that classified growth Bordeaux overflowing in your cellar.
Whether searching for a perfect pairing, that “special bottle,” or maybe a new trend or angle to follow — maybe the acquisition of savvy wine shopping skills, refining social graces as part of an MBA program’s business etiquette class, or even studying for a sommelier’s exam.
In the old days, we had to wait for the new release of a mag like Wine Spectator, spend a fair amount of time fondling bottles at the wine shop, wine-and-dine often, travel the globe, or work in the wine industry. All good things and all time well spent.
Ah, now the exploding blogosphere is ripe and sodden with all things wine. I must admit, I spend a lot of time (while filling this space every week) pounding a few good wine blogs. As with all blogs, there are various levels of credible representation, from proud amateurs who gleefully sing out tasting notes, to veritable authorities on all things associate to fermented grape juice. All of the grand laureates of the sport take part, from the good old American Robert Parker to sharp Brit Jancis Robinson.
Hell, I’m assuming most of you even read this every week. This time, instead of sharing current fav wines and the foods I’m grazing on, I am happy to highlight a couple of wine media players that I really dig: Joe Roberts and Leslie Sbracco. They are brilliant, their currency is über-relevant.
Roberts is known by the title of his blog, 1 Wine Dude (www.1winedude.com ), and offers a funny, almost Tom Robbins-esque look at wine through his kaleidoscopic compendium of current tasting notes derived from a globe-hopping schedule that may send the witty Philadelphia musician/writer to California, France, Italy, Australia and beyond. He bills his affair a “serious wine blog for the not so serious drinker,” and identifies with the notion of “intermediate wine geek.” Yet matters at hand are vast, varied, deep; his website is encyclopedic and abuzz. “Dumbing down” with the 1 Wine Dude can be a compelling journey. I had the pleasure of joining him a few years ago for a deep tour of Napa boutique wineries and spent some time tasting together at this year’s iconic Auction Napa Valley. He has a great palate, a grape-train load of knowledge, the connections of a power broker, and his opinion is sought after. Simply enough, he has written a book called “How To Taste Wine Like A Wine Geek: A Practical Guide To Tasting, Enjoying And Learning About The World’s Greatest Beverage.” I just love how long that rolls off the tongue (and makes my word count pile up!).
Roberts touted an interview with influential wine importer Kermit Lynch earlier this year: Lynch mentioned that when he started his importing business in the ‘70s there were no big wine-buying decisions being made based on scores or magazine reviews. Wine was about context: You had to get to know a wine and a producer to make a determination and a buying decision. And now, Lynch sees things coming around again to a similar point, because the changes we’ve seen online in journalism are impacting wine and democratizing wine opinion, reviews, and coverage. In short, when reviews, and point-ratings became du jour, guiding wine sales and overriding a more specific or intimate connection, we had to return to the spirit of the wine, the vineyard, the winery, winemaker, and so on — the stratigraphy of it all. Fortunately we can jump on his website to let the fresh, talented Roberts illuminate the terroir.
Perhaps you caught Leslie Sbracco’s panel discussion on Napa’s leading modern day wine matriarchy at this past summer’s Aspen Food & Wine Classic. Or maybe you have seen her gushingly entertaining San Francisco KQED television program Check Please, where she sends groups of couples to dine at each of the guests favorite restaurants; they then discuss the results roundtable whilst sipping vino. Or perhaps you have seen her rile the cast on NBC’s “Today” show. The vivacious wine celeb also hosts a similarly addled blog called Thirsty Girl (www.thristygirl.com ). From the looks of it, they have commandeered their own jet. Really. Just look on the website, or “friend” them. The Thirsty Girls celebrate all days of the week, including various designated wine days (national un-oaked chardonnay day, anyone?) to help us in our dull, miserly lives. They provide anthemic slogans like “Let’s face it, I can drink an entire bottle of wine on a school night…and do a kick ass hot yoga class the next morning!”
Inspirational. How about a video of Sbracco skillfully sabering a champagne bottle, using it like the sword of a thousand truths? It’s all there, and of course it’s more than just a website when the Thirsty Girls hit the road, which they frequently do, showing up in all the right places for tasting events with hometown thirsty hosts.
The ethos of both Roberts and Sbracco’s mission is pretty simple: They are both messengers and participants who deeply enjoy wine and all its foibles. Join them. Cheers! Remember, wine reveals truth.
Drew Stofflet lives in Carbondale. Correspond with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.