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You have stumbled upon the ramblings of WinoStuff's What's New! files dating back to 2001.  Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that reading too much of this 'Stuff can be harmful to your (mental) health.  Proceed at your own risk.

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December 8, 2001

What's New!!!?  What's ALWAYS new?  TECHNOLOGY!  That's What's New!!!  Many of you alert techno-dweebs may have read the intriguing article in the November issue of Wired Magazine about Leo McCloskey and his wine-industry consulting firm called Enologix in Sonoma, California.  Leo and his crew of wino-brainoid-technogeeks are taking a high tech look at what is in wine.  No, this is not another WinoJohn rant about those descriptive terms used by wine writers.  Leo is actually looking at the chemical makeup of wine right down to the molecular level.  As The Boy would say, " That's cool."

Leo and his enologii take highly rated wines and run them through some kind of a Star Trek-esque  liquid chromatograph and mass spectrometer in order to determine all the individual compounds in the wine.  These compounds include tannins, phenols, anthocyanins, terpenes, norisoprenoids, essential oils, essence of horse stable, etc.  (OK, I had to throw that in.)  They log all these components in the various concentrations for many different wines and, through massive number crunching operations, determine those compounds that make up good (and bad) wine.  Leo has fine tuned his technique well enough that he can now predict, with reasonable accuracy, the score a subject wine will receive by the Spec or Parker.  I knew it.  There is a secret formula!  Leo's not telling which compounds and in what concentrations make the best juice. 

You know there is going to be a controversy over all this.  You know I'm going to throw fuel on the fire right here.  On one side, you could argue, "What's the big deal?  It's reverse engineering.  It's done all the time in the high tech biz.  Hell, southeast Asia thrives on it.  (Uh oh, now I have visions of Malaysian cult cabs.  This is getting scary.)  Patents be damned. You figure out how some successful product or technology is made and you find a way to make it cheaper.   Lawyers then get involved and make themselves rich.  It's all part of the technology food chain.  What's the big deal?  It's also been done in many non-technology businesses for decades.  Look at the perfume business.  You can buy cheap knockoffs of all the most expensive scents and they smell almost identical to the original. Why should the good stuff be only for the privileged?"  

On the other hand, you might argue, "A wine's chemical makeup is a form of intellectual property (IP)."  After all, Coca Cola is founded on a secret recipe that no one is allowed to copy.  Why should wine be any different?  Then there is the whole "art of the winemaker" argument.  You know, the centuries of history, the craftsmanship, the terroir, blah, blah, blah.  I have personally condemned the mass production of wine by huge multinational conglomerates and the OWEC cartel.  (Wow.  Remember all that?  I've sobered up considerably since then.)  This new science of wine-engineering will change winemaking forever.  Hmmm...  Wine Engineering - I like the sound of that...  

So, what does the future hold for us winos?  Well, it could go one of several ways.  In one possible scenario, you may be able to buy a packet of Instant Wine powder and mix up a batch of your favorite massive Red.  Add  water, pop it in the microwave, and in 30 seconds, voila!  Screaming Eagle.  Ooops.  That name is trademarked.  We don't want to upset the lawyers.  So, call it Screaming Beagle.  Who cares?  It'll be just as good as the original.  You'll be able to buy it at the local 7-Eleven for $.99 a pack.  Or, if you're a real Beagle lover, get the family sized Tub-O-Beagle for $2.99.  Personally, I can't wait.  This may be as close as I ever get to Screaming Eagle.  And at a price that will allow me to put it on my corn flakes.  Under this scenario, our future wine enjoyment will not be dependent on something as fickle as the weather.  We could have another ice age or massive global warming and we will still be able to enjoy a nice glass of Beagle.  Isn't technology great?

In the other possible yet unlikely scenario, winemakers may use the information that Leo is compiling to actually improve their winemaking process.  Perhaps they will learn to monitor new parameters in the grapes during the growing season and make minor tweaks in their growing and vinting techniques in order to change the concentrations of certain key compounds to improve the taste of the final product.  Perhaps they will implement Statistical Process Controls throughout the process, documenting all critical process parameters (and ultimately qualify for ISO9001 certification), guaranteeing that every vintage is a great vintage.  How cool would that be?  It would certainly bring the price of good wine down to a level that the average working wino could afford.  That would be a good thing.  

Anyway, we'll just have to wait and see how the industry and the public react to this new science.  As for me, I'm just going to relax, enjoy, and drink more anthocyanins, terpenes, and norisoprenoids.

WinoJohn

For the original article from Wired Magazine, click here.  

 


November 11, 2001

Yea, I know, I haven't written anything in awhile.  WinoWally has been prodding me.  My brothers have pointed out my deficiency.   Even WinoBob sobered up long enough to notice that it's been two months since my last discourse.  I apologize.  

A lot has happened since my last update.  The terror attacks of September 11 took place while I was packing my bags to fly to Brazil.  (I didn't go.)  That had a huge impact on my psyche.  I tore a tendon in my left index finger while playing hoops.  Typing with only nine fingers takes a bit of practice.  I worked nights at my techno-dweeb job for a few weeks in an attempt to "get product out the door" for the pre-Christmas rush.  My wife started working and now I am expected to "pitch in around the house" a bit more.  (I hate pitching in around the house.)  So you see, I have at least four good reasons for slacking off, not the least of which is "it's my wife's fault".  So give me a break.  Geez...

It's not that I haven't tried to write something.  It's just been tough.  Since 9/11, I have been barely able to put two paragraphs together without digressing into a tirade which culminates in some kind of  "Fk Bin Laden" sentiment.  For now, however,  I'll try to stay on the topic of wine.

So.  What's New!!!?  I went to a wine tasting recently.  With as much wine as I drink, I go to very few tastings.  Hmmm... Come to think of it, I get invited to very few tastings...  What's with that?   I'll have to examine the cause/effect relationship here... Perhaps, again, IT'S MY WIFE'S FAULT!!!  Do we see a recurring theme here?

Anyway, I went to this tasting which, appropriately enough, was called "The Super Tasting".  This event was hosted by The Wine Library, a Springfield, NJ retail store, and was a benefit for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.  The event was held at The Manor in West Orange, NJ and was, in my opinion, the wine tasting event of the season.  (Remember, I don't go to many tastings, so my basis for comparison is limited.)

The kind folks at The Super Tasting were only pouring 600 wines, so I didn't really expect too much...  600 wines!  Six friggin' hundred wines!!!  Holy pig-ing Islamic extremist, Batman, 600 wines!  (Ooohhh... Sorry about that...)  As I was getting ready for The Super Tasting, I was trying to imagine what it would be like.  At all my previous tastings, the attendees were seated at a table with a dozen or so wine glasses neatly arranged in front of them.  The wines were poured one-by-one and the host would make some comments about the wines being poured.  For the Super Tasting,  I was imagining myself at a nice white tablecloth-covered table with 600 wineglasses in front of me!   Man, this was going to be something.  I've never had 600 wines before.  If you add up all the wines I've had in my life, I don't think I've tasted 600 wines.  My mind was racing.  This was going to be something.  I just hoped my wife's table was nearby.

So, I get to the tasting, fashionably late (6 minutes) with my best girl on my arm.  "Check me out...  I'm going to taste 600 wines...  Get a load of me..."   The fact that I had to park 2 zip-codes away should have triggered something, but no, I was going to taste 600 wines.  A short walk for a good cause.  No problem.  I was going to taste 600 wines.  This was going to be wine heaven.  600 wines!!!

My wife and I walk in, hand our tickets to the ticket-taker, pick up the program, and are directed to several rooms where the wines are being poured.  As we entered the first room, I thought we were at some kind of wake.  Not that anyone was crying or anything.  Rather, there were no less than 10,000 people, all huddled around 60 or so tables, all getting hammered on my 600 wines, and all of them were wearing BLACK!   Now, I know that West Orange is only about 10 miles from Manhattan and I know that my fashion sense is vintage '70's techno-geek, but everyone?  In black?  Perhaps my black-challenged wardrobe is why I don't get invited to many tastings.  Hmmm.... note to self... more black...

Now, slightly disillusioned and resolved to fact that I will have to fight my way to the tasting tables, I check the program and plot a strategy.  (I know now that there is no way that I'm going to taste 600 wines.)  I pick the top 20 or 30 that I want to taste, identify the tables pouring these selections (surprisingly, most are massive reds!), and  I begin my mission.  "Out of my way", I say to a few frail-looking wino-waifs dressed in black, "I'm on a mission from God!"  As I push my way from table to table, I realize that I should be jotting down some tasting notes.  Having no pen handy, I think, "What would a real nerd do?"  At that point, I decide to use the voice recorder feature on my cell phone.  Picture this... a total engineering nerd dressed in something not black, walking from table to table, tasting wines and describing them into a cell phone.  After awhile, people just started to get out of my way...  At the time, I was thinking that they appreciated my Capt. Kirk-like command of the situation and my mastery of the available technology to record important data.  In retrospect, they were probably "concerned" that I was "communicating" with my crew back on the starship...  Oh well, they got out of my way!  Unfortunately, my mastery of the technology only applied until the next day when I inadvertently erased all the tasting notes while trying to call some colleagues in Taiwan.  So much for technology.

Here is what I remember:  I tasted some excellent reds including 1998 Luce, 1997 K-J Stature Cabernet Sauvignon, 1997 Summus, 1997 Raymond Generations, 1997 Grgich Cabernet Sauvignon, 1997 Clos DuBois Reserve Cabernet, 1998 Mt. Veeder Cabernet, 1998 Mondavi Reserve Cab, 1998 Mondavi SLD Cab, 1998 Mondavi Oakville Cab, 1997 Monsanto Chianti Classico Il Poggio, 1997 Ceretto Barolo Brunate, and especially the 1998 Guigal Chateaneuf du Pape.  I was a bit disappointed with the 1998 Groth Cab (very tannic) and the 1998 Phelps Insignia (gone by the time I got to the table).  Enjoyable whites included (YES! I did taste some whites!): 1999 Stag's Leap Reserve Chardonnay, 1998 Marius Delarche Corton Charlemagne (WOW!), 1997 Chateau De Pul Montrachet Chassagne Montrachet, Mumms DVX, and the 1990 La Grande Dame.  I also remember some woman in black asking me if I want to buy raffle tickets for a Lexus convertible.  "Only $125 each or 5 for a nickel".  5 for a nickel?  5 for a nickel???  If I had a "nickel", I wouldn't be wearing a brown polyester leisure suit!!!  They should provide some training to these people before setting them loose on unsuspecting dweebs.  

Anyway, it was a wonderful event for an excellent cause.  With a little luck, I'll get invited back next year.  I'll get there early, I'll bring a notebook, and I'll be wearing BLACK!

In the mean time, I'm going to relax, enjoy, and drink more wine.  Oh, ... and f Bin Laden.

WinoJohn


August 31, 2001

First, Happy Birthday, Sharon and Maureen!  (Why do I suddenly feel like Willard Scott?)

OK, let's get on with business.  I want the right to park in the handicap spot.  I think I'm entitled. I want the state of New Jersey to send me one of those special license plates with the wheelchair on it so I can park in the good spots.  I am handicapped.  I have come to that conclusion.  After reading the Wine Spectator for the last 4 or 5 years, I have come to the realization that both my palate and my nose are defective, or to be more politically correct, I am Sensory Challenged.

As I perused this month's wine reviews in the Spec, I noticed several things.  First, not only am I unable to taste/smell some of the components described in the various wine reviews, I'm not sure that I would want to.  Take for example the 1997 Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche.  We are tantalized by the description of "amazing aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and mace, with hints of mint..."   Mace?  Even with a hint of mint, I'm not sure I want mace in my wine.  If I ordered a wine in a restaurant and it tasted of mace, I would probably make a scene.  But that's just me.   Or take a look at the 1999 Michel Coutoux Mersault Les Genevrieres.  For only $110, you too can enjoy "...tones of wet earth and horse stable."  My taste buds must be totally defective.  I've tossed back a great number of wines and I have yet to detect any discernable horse stable.  Maybe it's only found in the $100+ Frog wines. 

Some of the descriptive terms used by the various expert tasters defy both my imagination and my vocabulary.  Take for example the review of the "Highly Recommended" 1999 Louis Carillon Puligny-Montrachet Les Champs Canet.  The reviewer reports that "the flavors cut through this full-bodied white Burgundy like light piercing glass, with mineral, lemon curd, pie tart, (more) mineral and a subtle dosage of toasted oak."   Ummm..., excuse me, but, "light piercing glass?"  Piercing?  I don't think so, Tim.  Light sort of propagates through glass, and without much difficulty.  This wine also has, according to the crack reviewer, "the rectitude to improve with age."  Now I'm not sure what "rectitude" is but I'm pretty sure I don't want it in my mouth.  Especially if its "piercing"!

Most wine reviews these days pick flavor words from a  common list of descriptive terms.  You have read about, and you have probably tasted, some or all of the fruits; the red fruits, the black fruits, a variety of cherries, plum,  lemon, citrus, pineapple, melon, pear, green apple, red apple, apricot, currant (I think that's a fruit), etc.  The list also includes many other common tastes; spice, honey, butter, herb, grass, straw, cassis, nut, mint, smoke, anise, licorice, caramel, vanilla, cedar, oak, chocolate, coffee, mocha, mineral, etc.  Those terms pretty much define the limits of my obviously defective palate.  Some winos with more refined palates may also taste litchi, leather, stone, iron, earth, flint, barnyard, horse stable, dog house, underbrush, underpants, wet earth, dry earth, tar, moss, mold, mildew, any number of items in the bacterium family, shoe polish, and more.  Not me.

One flavor you don't find much in wine is GRAPE.  Out of the 500+ wines reviewed in this month's Spectator,  I counted only 5 reviews that made mention of any taste of grape!  What the hell are all these wines made from?  I would guess that three quarters of the reviews mention plum, cherry, or some kind of red or black berry flavors.  Perhaps winemakers are secretly crushing other fruits in with the grapes!  Perhaps this would account for all the other fruit flavors and the absence of any real grape flavors!  Perhaps this is why I am a dweeb engineer and not a highly compensated wine writer!

There is hope for those of us who are Sensory Challenged.  There is a company in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, that can help us determine what stuff tastes like.  The company is called 21st Sensory and, thankfully, they are licensed by the state of Oklahoma for alcoholic beverage flavor analysis!   At 21st Sensory Inc., their staff of professionals are "highly trained in flavor, appearance, texture, and aroma recognition and measurement."  21st Sensory employs panelists and panel leaders with a combined professional expertise of many thousands of hours of product analyses.  You'll certainly want to check out their groundbreaking work "Consumer Study - Hedonic Rating of Meatloaves".  I am not making this up.

So now, if you have any doubt whether that new white Burgundy you just bought might contain essence of horse stable, you can have your question answered by a team of professionals!  Something tells me that Marvin R. Shanken is not worried.

Until next time, relax, enjoy, and drink more (grape) wine!

WinoJohn


July 26, 2001

What's new, what's new...?  Hmmm...  Here's something.  You hear a lot of talk these days about wine and food pairings.  There are books on the subject.  There are wine web sites dedicated to the subject.  There are TV shows on the subject.  Even WinoBob throws in his two cents occasionally with food suggestions that would go well with the wines that he reviews.  (Although, if you've ever seen WinoBob, you'd bet that not much food makes its way into that stick figure frame.)  Up until now, however, I have remained fairly quiet on the subject.  It's time for me to end my silence.  Now, loyal wino friends, I am going on record with the definitive wine/food pairing guide.  Well, it's not exactly a guide, it's more like several recommendations.  Someday, I'll compile a full guide but for now you'll have to settle for these few tips.  Keep in mind that my complete wine spectrum ranges from a medium-bodied meritage on the light side to a massive, smack-you-in-the-head-with-a-two-by-four cabernet on the heavy side.  It's not a broad spectrum, nor is it a colorful spectrum, but it gets the job done.  Be careful with these recommendations.

First, say you call home and your wife/girlfriend/intern tells you that she is making a delicate Poulet Provencal with Terrine of Foie Gras.  She asks you to stop at the wine store and get a nice bottle of wine for dinner.  (Note: Any woman who encourages you to go into a wine store, is a good woman!)  After giving this wine/food pairing thing careful consideration, what do you choose?   I choose a big Napa Cab!  What?!! A big cab with chicken???  WinoJohn, what's wrong with you?  Well, here's my reasoning.  It's simple.  It's French food.  If the food sucks, you still have that massive cab to fall back on.  There's no arguing with this logic.  Don't even try.

OK, try this one.  You are invited out at a nice restaurant in New York with some friends of your wife/girlfriend/intern.  Others in the group made the reservation and after you arrive at the restaurant, you find out that its some kind of vegan joint.  The friends know you are a wino and they ask you to order the wine.  What do you get?  This one's easy.  You find a big, high-alcohol Zin and you order a bottle for every man, woman and child at the table.  The reason?  Actually, there are several reasons.  Reason #1) Someone you know could walk by, see you in that vegan restaurant, and make a snide remark.  You'll want to get up from the table and reenact that scene from "Taxi Driver".  You know, the "Are you talkin' to me?" scene.  The extra alcohol kick from the Zin will energize the "fight or flight" reflex.  Either you'll end up in a street fight with the moron who made the comment or you'll flee the restaurant, leaving your wife/girlfriend/intern and her meatless friends to enjoy their tofu and carob steaks. Or, there's reason #2) After everyone else at the table passes out from the 15-plus % Zin, you can sneak out for some McFood.   I told you to be careful with these recommendations.

Here's the last one.  You're in your favorite Italian restaurant.  You've got a pasta jones that just won't quit.  You know you're having red sauce.  What do you order?  Think about it...   What are you going to order...?  You think, " Hmmm...  I know WinoJohn would order a Chianti Riserva...  It's the perfect match for the red sauce.  What do I do...?"  

Give Up? 

OK, it was a trick question.  I didn't tell you who you were dining with.  If it's you wife, yeah, go with the Chianti.  If it's your girlfriend/intern, bite the bullet and go with something light and white (she'll be more inclined to plow through that first bottle and go for the second.  You know what that means...)  And if you're out with your macho buds or bros, you go with a big Amarone!  Hell, they dry the damn grapes for a few months before squeezing out the last few drops of super-concentrated juice to make this wine!  Talk about your big reds! Your testosterone level will shoot off the scale.  

What?  You've never heard about pairing wine with company?  Well, you heard it here first!  I do it all the time.  (In fact, some of us pair company with wine, but that's a topic for another column.)  This is all just more to think about in the crazy, complex, world of wine.

So, now that you are armed with this new and disturbing information, relax, enjoy, and drink more wine.  And pass me that two-by-four...

WinoJohn

P.S.  Next week I'm off to the exclusive and luxurious WinoWally Beach Resort where we're sure to enjoy golf-filled days and wine-filled nights with the Wally clan.  I'll try to keep the site updated from the road.  Wish me luck!


June 23, 2001

First, let me apologize for the long delay in updating What's New!!!  My third trip to Taiwan (this year) and some major technical difficulties with my antique PC have forced me to focus my attention on other subject matters.  But hopefully, those issues are behind me.  In fact, The Boy and I are building an new PC this weekend and I have no near term plans to go anywhere.  Thank goodness.

So anyway, what's up?  I'll tell you what's up.  Prices!  Specifically, French wine prices.  More specifically, 2000 vintage Bordeaux prices!  Damn!  They stick one clutch jump shot at the buzzer and suddenly they are entitled to a huge new contract for next season. What do they think this is?  The NBA?

Get this.  The first growth chateaux have started selling their 2000 vintage on a futures basis.  That means they are selling the product now for delivery some time in the future.  No big deal.  It's done all the time with many different commodities.  However, the prices that these frog bastards are demanding has become obscene!   Take for example, Chateau Latour.  Latour makes a big, robust red wine with tremendous aging potential.  They released their first round of futures in early June at about $100 per bottle.  OK, good vintage, big name, $100 bucks for a future bottle is not too surprising.  (Keep in mind that the retail price, when the wine actually makes it to your neighborhood store, will be 3-4x this number.)  We expect that kind of pricing from the first growths.  But more recently, Latour had their fourth round of futures offerings, this time in the range of $250 a pop!  3-4x that number makes this wine affordable only to celebrities, heads of state, and maybe WinoWally.    I can just see myself coming home from that trip to the liquor store,  "Hi, Hon.  You'll never guess what I bought at the wine store!  They had the 2000 Latour!  I picked up a couple bottles!  I had to leave the Expedition as collateral until the home equity loan goes through but I hear its a really good wine!"  And... if that's not bad enough... double that price again to estimate the charge for that same bottle at your favorite restaurant!  Imagine turning in that expense report.  "Uhhh..., boss? The good news is we landed the McKenzie account.  Bad news is... ummm... well... we have to take a one time charge against earnings this quarter to pay off the dinner bill..."  

You can see that this is getting stupid.  $250 x 3 = $750 (retail) x 2 = $1500 (restaurant).  It reminds me of something William F. Buckley once said.  "A billion dollars here and a billion dollars there and pretty soon you are talking about real money..."  What's the average wino to do?  We'll get to that.

First, let's talk about the French.  Good food, decent wine, big attitude.  The French people have always felt that anything French is better than anything not French.  For the last few years, they have struggled to convince anyone that French wine is even comparable to the best wines from around the world.  Recent releases from the lowly Italians and even the stinking Yanks have greatly overshadowed that which has come out of Frogville.  In fact, with a few exceptions, for the past 10 years French wine has been tremendously mediocre.  OK, '95 was pretty good in Bordeaux and '98 was passable in the Southern Rhone (I had to throw that in for WinoBob).  But for the most part, since 1990, France has been on par with oh... say... Chile.  I say that without any offense meant toward my friends in Chile.  It's about time France came up with a decent vintage!  So maybe they charge as much as possible because it may be awhile before they have another good year.  Who knows?

I had dinner recently with a French friend of mine.  I deferred to him to order the wine and he selected, not surprisingly, something from Bordeaux.  I don't recall what it was but it was OK.  I asked him how the 2000 vintage was (this was before Parker and Spectator fanned the flames), and he said quite frankly, "All ze French vintages are good!"   What???  All the French vintages are good?  Have the ingenious French somehow figured out how to control the weather?  Has there been some secret climactic change in France that makes it now constantly ideal for growing grapes?  I don't get it.  Perhaps, after years of average and below average vintages, the French are now buying grapes from CALIFORNIA...  Yes, I remember now.  The whole international wine cartel thing is starting to make sense.  Let's not go there again.

OK, so what do we do?  Well, for starters, we could boycott everything French.  (Hmmm... My wife is part French... Which part should I avoid?)  Ouch!.  I'll pay for that.  Anyway, boycotting France should not be too difficult.  The wines will be unaffordable.  The food portions are too small.  I don't even like Jerry Lewis.  The toughest thing will be cutting back on the fries and the toast.  But if we remain firm in our resolve, we can send a message!  And isn't that the most important thing?  But for now, as always,  relax, enjoy, and drink more American wine.  (Damn, I should be hired by the American Wine Council or some similar group.  I am available.)

WinoJohn


5/6/01

What's new???  Let's see...  

Oh yeah, we survived the aftermath of the wine.com implosion.  It was close.  We nearly got sucked into the vortex on that one!  If we weren't so singularly focused on bringing you the best in news, reviews, links, and gadget updates, we could have been distracted.  And, as wine.com so ably demonstrated, it's a fine line that separates distraction from disaster.  It would appear that eVineyard.com was recently distracted.  They purchased the remnants of wine.com for $10 million.  WinoBob, start the bankruptcy proceedings.  I know how we can make a quick ten mil...

Also, this past month, the very lovely and astute Sue Courtney of wineoftheweek.com checked in with us.  She reports that all is well with her New Zealand based web site.  No layoffs, mergers, or takeovers are planned.  Like winostuff, wineoftheweek is a low overhead, low revenue, dot com survivor.  Unlike winostuff, Sue's staff is quite articulate and most likely sober.  For a wealth of information on all wine things NZ, visit wineoftheweek.com.  (There, I've made it very easy for you.) 

I first stumbled upon Sue (not literally) on the Wine Lovers Discussion Group forum, a bulletin board of sorts hosted by world famous wine guy and Honorary Wino, Robin Garr.  As you may recall, Robin manages the most comprehensive wine web site in the world (other than WinoStuff), wineloverspage.com.  Someone posted a mention of my recent wine.com/winostuff.com comparison on the WLDG forum. Sue read the posting, visited our site, and suddenly realized that she, too, had miraculously managed to NOT blow through tens of millions of dollars in support of her web site.  (We must be doing something wrong, Sue.)  Sue was kind enough to name Winostuff  as "Link of the Week" on her site.  For that, we offer our heartfelt thanks.   We considered naming wineoftheweek.com as "The Official New Zealand Based Wine-Related Web Site" of WinoStuff.com, but I didn't know if we could do that without Sue's permission.  She could be a lawyer and WinoBob already blew the entire legal defense budget on some nice Riedel stemware. 

And one final note, WHERE THE HELL IS WINO WALLY?  The last documented Wally sighting was at the NCAA Final Four in Minnesota.  That was sometime in March and, as I recall, it was really cold back then.  We have heard zippo from Wally in months.  That's unlike Wally.  My guess is that Wally either 1) got carried away (literally) while test piloting some new wine related electronic gizmo, 2) got caught up in the excitement of a Duke victory and is now living in a frat house in Durham and selling Duke T-shirts for wine money, or 3) has come to the realization that his twin baby daughters need his attention more than his wine-gorged, zero revenue-generating, web site buddies.  Hopefully, its only the latter.

Wherever you are, Wally, relax, enjoy, give the girls a kiss from me, and drink more wine.

WinoJohn


4/4/01

What's New?!!!  Check this out...

Wine.com lays off 2/3 of its employees!

Holy bat-shit, WinoBob!  The biggest internet wine retailer in the world is sucking the proverbial wind!  How could this be?  What could have gone wrong?  What does this bode for the future of other highly popular, although somewhat underfunded, wine related web sites like WinoStuff?  What will we all do if... gasp!... WinoStuff should suffer a similar fate?

Relax, winos, WinoStuff is doing just fine...  But what happened to wine.com and what has WinoStuff done differently to ensure our long term success?  While the parallels are startling, there are certain operational and philosophical differences that will certainly protect your favorite wine related web site.  Read on.

Here is a brief comparison of these two internet giants:

 

Wine.com

Wine.com started sometime in 1994 as Virtual Vineyards (Mistake #1 - Goofy name.  Venture capitalists and serious wine stiffs don't like goofy names)

 

WinoStuff

WinoStuff started sometime in 2000, I'd have to look up the exact date but it's not important.  (Brilliant idea #1 - Goofy name.  Goofy winos like goofy names.)

Virtual Vineyards posts their website in 1995.  (Mistake #2 - What the hell did they do from 1994 to 1995?)

WinoStuff posts their first website in 2000 on the FREE Web Hosting site, Geocities.com.  (Brilliant idea #2 - It was FREE!!!)

 

1999 - Virtual Vineyards pays $3.3 million for the wine.com name.  (See if you can spot mistake #3...)

 

2000 - Wino Bob forks out $35 for the WinoStuff.com name.   Winos Bob and John create WineVentures LLC to protect themselves from litigious winos and overexuberant venture capitalists.

 

Wine.com creates their AOL-esque logo, probably paying some advertising firm HUGE bucks for the design.

Wino John creates the now familiar WinoStuff logo by modifying Microsoft clip-art in a shareware graphics editor. 

 

Later in 1999, wine.com gets another  $50 million dollar investment from some venture capitalist dudes.

Later in 2000, WinoJohn gets a discount on wine at a local retail store in exchange for a link to their site.

 

August 2000 - wine.com and Wineshopper.com merge, creating a super mega internet wine retailer.  Investors with too much money pitch in another $18 million to fuel the expansion.

August 2000 - Wino Wally successfully fends off a hostile takeover bid from wine.com and hoards of angry venture capitalists.  WinoJohn pitches in $100 for the now-coveted WinoStuff logo shirts.

 

January 2001 - wine.com and wineshopper.com complete their merger and promptly lay off 75 loyal wino-workers.

WinoStuff.com celebrates their first year in business with a gala dinner/wine bash at Bacchus (Official Chop House and Wine Bar of WinoStuff).  The entire WinoStuff wino-workforce shares in the festivities. 

 

April 2001 - Wine.com lays off another two-thirds of its 245 employees in an attempt to bring expenses in line with revenues and to more effectively compete with new internet start-up from New Jersey.

 

WinoStuff increases staff by 33% (with the addition of WinoHondo) in order to meet the burgeoning demand for news, information, humor, wine reviews, and gadget updates.

 

Experts are blaming interstate shipping regulations, in part, for wine.com's troubles and their burn through of the estimated $150 million in total investor's cash.

At the end of Q1, 2001, WinoStuff's balance sheet looks much better than wine.com's, shipping regulations or not.  While revenues are minimal (actually revenues are $0), we've only burned through a couple hundred bucks.

 

I think you see the point here.  (If you do, please contact me.  I don't remember where I was going with this.)

Anyway, we hate to see anyone out of work, especially wine industry people.  Wine.com had ambitious plans to become the next Amazon.com and dominate online sales of wine.  (Amazon.com was actually an investor in wine.com, further compromising their own balance sheet.)  However, with an estimated $10 million in debt, creditors could foreclose or force wine.com to seek bankruptcy protection while it develops a repayment plan. A decision is expected within several days.  Even if they can repay their debt, the twisted maze of laws that regulate the interstate transport of alcoholic beverages may preclude success for any online wine retailer.

There may be some good news for the average wino, however.  Wine.com is attempting to liquidate more than $5 million in inventory. The company is discounting wines heavily on its web site and shopping the backlog to wholesalers and retailers.  

So, loyal winos, fear not.  WinoStuff is alive and well.  We will continue to publish your favorite wine-related web site.  We won't try to sell you wines online (unless we figure out a way to do it without burning though millions of dollars.)  We may try to sell you something, however.  We don't know what yet.  Shirts, maybe.  Glassware.  WinoStuff logo stuff.  Dinner with WinoBob.  Who knows?  All you have to do is stay tuned.  So, relax, enjoy, and drink more wine.

WinoJohn


3/11/01

I'm off to Southeast Asia this week as part of my "real" job.  Lots of techno-dweebery takes place in SE Asia.  Japan is a well-known geek center but  Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and other countries are now major brain trusts.  This time I'm off to Taipei, Taiwan, ROC.  (You have to put "ROC" or they get pissed off.)  So once again, my "real" job is going to interfere with my duties here on WinoStuff.  My sincere apologies.  Perhaps if my wife didn't spend every cent I make and more, I could afford to take a job that would allow me the necessary time to devote to this site.  Oh, well...

I've been to southeast Asia a half dozen times or so and each visit is a new experience.  To date, I have found Asia to be completely devoid of wine.  I know that this can't actually be reality, I'm just hanging with the wrong crowd of nerds.  I'll have to promote WinoStuff while I'm there.  Given the high techno-geek population in this part of the world, WinoStuff should be an instant success. Where else should a nerd-turned-wino look to find all things wine?

During one of my previous trips to Korea, I had the opportunity to attend a formal Korean dinner party.  The host was most gracious in describing, in great detail, each of the twelve or so courses, along with the source and cultural significance of each of the foods.  I managed to gulp back a large number of unidentifiable food-like substances, not wanting to know exactly what they were.  It wasn't until course number ten that I had a problem.  Dog.

We all joke here in the good ole' US of A about the tales of dog-eating in Asia.  I can tell you, its no joke.  I politely declined the dog course, it being Lent and everything, and moved on to the sea cucumber.  I can just picture myself trying to get a Papal dispensation to enjoy a nice leg of hound.  I'm not sure my parish priest would understand.   The sea cuke was a disgusting, gelatinous, fish-like creature that I'm still trying to shake from my memory.  I would have been better off with the dog.

On a subsequent trip to Asia, I mentioned  my roast dog experience to one of my Taiwanese business acquaintances who assured me that dog is indeed "good eating". And no, it doesn't taste like chicken.  In his humble opinion, however, cat is a bit gamey.  That's good to know for the next time you bite into something a bit "mysterious" in a Chinese restaurant.

All these new foreign cuisine options raise one important question for the international mobile wino.  What wine do you serve when feasting on a domesticated house pet?  World famous wine guy and Honorary Wino, Robin Garr, wrote a nice article recently on wine pairings with Asian cuisine but he failed to discuss the proper wine to serve with dog.  In Robin's defense, he did state that the proper wine selection depends on how the various foods are prepared and the spices involved.  I guess we can extend that to dog, which then raises additional questions.  What is the best way to prepare dog?  Does the breed of dog matter?  What about the age of the dog?  Is puppy more tender than mature dog?  Now I'm starting to make myself sick.  Let's stop here.

I'm going to try to stay in touch while I'm on the road.  If I can log onto the net, I'll post some dog-free updates.  Wino Wally, I'll try to find some new gadgets for you to review.  WinoBob, this may be a good week to get that liver transplant.  For the rest of you, give your dog a hug and then relax, enjoy, and drink more wine.

WinoJohn


2/17/01

Soooo..... What's new?  Let's see... Hmmmm.... 

The Boy got a new computer for Christmas.  933 MHz P3, 256 MB, 40 Gigs, 19" monitor, DVD, CD-RW, etc.  Nice little system.  Naturally, we had to sign up for cable modem service.  We wouldn't want all that speed and power to be wasted!  The cable modem offers mind-boggling bandwidth and always-on instant access.  It's an amazing thing.  Obviously, I was brainwashed during the pre-Christmas shopping season by The Boy, and his mother, The Wife.  I can still hear the argument.  "Dad!  I'm taking Visual Basic in school!  I need a good computer.  Dad! Your computer is way too slow!  It can't even burn CD's!  And that modem is like, lame!  And... we'll save money on phone charges if we get cable!  And... everyone has faster machines.  And blah blah blah...!"  What kind of technogeek would I be if I allowed everyone to have faster machines...?  In the back of my mind, I'm thinking, "I really could use a faster machine..."  Yea, I bought it all, hook, line, and sinker.

So here we are, six weeks later.  I STILL do this whole web site on my 1995-vintage Pentium 1, screaming along at a whopping 133 MHz.  (Actually, my home system is currently on the fritz.  At the moment, I'm doing this update on my laptop which I brought home from work just so that I would have some kind of functioning computer on which to manage this site.)  God forbid that I should get a few minutes on The Boy's NASA-like, state-of-the-art, internet command center.  Somebody might be trying to IM him.  We wouldn't want to miss that!  And, I'm still dialing in to AOL at 56k.  I'm still paying those same phone charges.  The Boy can surf the net, hit Napster, download a few MP3's, move on to IRC, download and burn entire movies, and logoff, all in the time it takes my PC to perform the power-on-self-test.  Heck, it takes me 60 seconds just to load WinoStuff's Winery Links Page into the FrontPage Editor.  What's wrong with this picture?  Now I know how Al Bundy feels...

Some of you are probably saying, "WinoJohn, what about that whole IPO thing?  Just take some of those option-dollars and buy yourself a new super computer.  Heck, while you're at it, cash in a few extra shares and buy computers for Winos Bob and Wally as well!"  To that, I can only say, "HAVE YOU SEEN THE NASDAQ LATELY??!!!  There aren't any option dollars!!  There's no IPO!!  There's no new wine cellar.  No cases of '82 Bordeaux.  No California cult wines.  No red car.  And, no new super computer."  Damn.  I said it. No red car.

Well, there's always WinoStuff.  I haven't checked the corporate coffers recently, but we must be rolling in the dough by now.  After all, we are a dot com.  We produce one of the most important sites on the internet.  We're wine industry pioneers.  We're using the technology of the internet to bring wine information to the masses.  We are promoting commerce.  We're creating jobs.  We are driving the economy, damn it.   Alan Greenspan and George W. should be thanking us.  At the very least,  we should be able to take some of our enormous earnings and make a little investment in capital equipment.  Like a few PC's.  Some nice wine.  A red car.  I think it's only fair.  What?  WinoBob's detox used up all the corporate cash?  That's just my luck.  You can call me "Al".

How about a couple quick wine reviews?  

WinoWally and I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying WinoBob and, more importantly, his bottle of '93 Colgin to Bacchus (The Official Wine Bar and Chop House of WinoStuff.)  WinoBob presented his normally astute review of the Colgin in his February 9th Winings, however he lacked sufficient brain power after the meal to review the very lovely 1997 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville ($65 restaurant, $45 retail) which we enjoyed as a precursor to the Colgin.  I have found the non-reserve Groth cabs, in the past, to be big, tightly wound, highly tannic wines requiring at least 10 years to soften up.  The '97 Oakville, however, was smooth and approachable now.  It paled in comparison to the Colgin, but it was still a nice medium-bodied cab with well balanced fruit and tannins.

Right now, as I labor over this discourse, I'm enjoying a 1998 Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay.  (Hey, it's Saturday, I'm working on a wine-related web site, and my regular computer is on the fritz.  You're lucky I'm not doing shots!)  Hess produces one of my favorite cabs, the Hess Collection cab, not the Hess Select cab, which, by the way, is not a bad little cab for the money, either.  (Wow.  Six commas in one sentence.  How Bob-esque.)  The Hess Collection chard is slightly acidic, with plenty of oak and a touch of apple/pear.  As I recall, the '97 was similar to this '98 but with a bit more fruit. 

Well, that's it for now.  Say a prayer for my PC.  Go get yourself some bandwidth.  And, most importantly, relax, enjoy, and drink more wine.

WinoJohn


1/7/01

What's New???!  Well, I guess WinoWally threw down the gauntlet when he challenged me to determine the reason why a raisin will continuously rise and fall in a glass of champagne.  (Actually, he sort of clicked down the gauntlet, this being the internet cyber-age and all that...)  Even though the challenge did not involve electronics, I took the challenge seriously!  This is science, damn it, and I am a friggin' scientist!  Besides, it gave me a reason to go out and get a nice bottle of champagne.  I'm still trying to convince my wife that "It's science!" is a good reason.  Unfortunately, she's an engineer, too.

Anyway, I waited until New Year's eve to perform the experiment.  First, I collected all the necessary tools and equipment.  This included:

Champagne - 1990 Charles Heidseick Brut (which was absolutely phenomenal, but that is a purely subjective observation.)

Ice bucket and ice - Required to bring the temperature of the subject test beverage down to the optimum  experiment (consumption) range.

Champagne flute - Science or no science, I couldn't possibly drink champagne out of one of those wide, flat sherbet glasses.

Raisins - OK. So we didn't actually have a box of raisins in the house at the time of the experiment, but we did have a box of Raisin Bran.  Unfortunately, it was POST Raisin Bran (...two scoops of raisins in every package...oh, sorry, that's Kellog's Raisin Bran).  If you know anything about Raisin Bran, you know that Post Raisin Bran uses sugar-coated raisins.  So as to not affect the outcome of the test, I was forced to suck on the rasins for a few minutes to remove all the sugar, but I was pretty sure that wouldn't affect the outcome of the test.  (Don't give me any of that "uncontrolled variable" crap!  This is MY experiment and I'll do it my way!)

After WinoWally's earth-shattering report that a raisin will repeatedly rise and fall when dropped into a glass of champagne, I formulated the following hypothesis (I know this is technical but try to stay with me here):

Hypothesis:

"A raisin will repeatedly rise and fall in a glass of champagne."

 

To prove this hypothesis, I designed the following experiment:

Experiment Procedure:

1) Pour champagne in a fluted glass.
2) Drink first glass of champagne to make sure that there are no raisins in glass.
3) Pour another glass of champagne in the fluted glass.
4) Drop sugar-free raisin into fluted glass.
5) Observe results.

And the results of the experiment revealed the following:

Results of Experiment:

The raisin was observed to repeatedly rise and fall when dropped into a glass of champagne.  

Is science amazing, or what?

Now some of you, like WinoWally, will want to know why the raisin performs this interesting little dance.  Isn't it enough that the scientific experiment proves the result?  Isn't it enough that you can now go out and duplicate this scientific experiment and observe the results for yourself?  Isn't it pretty obvious why this phenomenon occurs?  OK, for those of you that haven't come up with the conclusion as to why this happens, here it is:

Conclusion of Scientific Experiment:

Facts:

1) The raisin is just a dried, shriveled up grape, resembling in many ways WinoBob's liver.  As such, it has a very high total surface area (TSA) for an object of such limited mass.  In fact, the raisin is very nearly buoyant, i.e. the mass of the displaced volume of fluid (champagne) is nearly the same as the mass of the raisin itself.  

2) The surface roughness of the raisin is much greater than the surface roughness of the inside of the champagne flute.  (This is an important fact.)  

3) Champagne has a great deal of carbon dioxide held in solution.  (Thus, the bubbles...)  The carbon dioxide wants to get out of the champagne.  (See Einstein's Second Law of Carbonated Beverage)  In order for the carbon dioxide molecules to emerge from solution, they first adhere to a solid surface, that being the inside of the glass OR the surface of the raisin.  When enough of these molecules get together, they form a bubble of CO2.  (Check out the way I got the "2" to drop down in "CO2".  That's cool.)  

OK, here's the physics.  Because of the raisin's high TSA, many bubbles form on the raisin's surface.  Because of the raisin's rough surface, the surface tension between the CO2 bubble and the raisin causes the bubble to adhere to the raisin.  When enough CO2 molecules coalesce into bubbles which adhere to the raisin, the raisin becomes buoyant!  The raisin, which has heretofore been minding it's own business on the bottom of the champagne flute, starts to float to the surface of the champagne!  But wait!  As the raisin floats to the surface, the hydrostatic pressure that the champagne fluid exerts on the raisin/bubbles gradually reduces.  As the pressure reduces, the bubbles, which are pressurized gas, begin to expand.  As the bubbles expand, the volume of fluid that they displace increases making the bubbles more buoyant.  At some point, the forces of the fluid acting to displace the bubbles exceed the surface tension of the bubble/raisin subsystem.  The bubbles break free and escape to the surface of the champagne where they disappear into the atmosphere, or your nose depending on the position of your nose relative to the escaping bubbles at the time of their surface break.  Without the added support of the bubbles, the raisin sinks back down to the bottom of the glass where the entire process begins again.

There is an outside chance that I could be wrong or that I made all this up.  Therefore, more experimentation is necessary.  In fact, maybe the physics involved could be applied to commercial ventures.  Bubble-powered elevators, for example.  Who knows?  Anyway, here's this week's assignment.  Contact your lawmakers and request/demand that the government investigate this phenomenon.  Federal funding is obviously required.  WinoWally, figure out how we can get a government grant to perform the necessary research.  (My champagne inventory is sorely deficient.)

Meanwhile, I'll relax, enjoy, and drink more wine...

WinoJohn  


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