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.
additional wino-babble, see:
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
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
In the other possible yet
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.
For the original article from
Wired Magazine, click
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
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
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.
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!
July 26, 2001
What's new, what's new...?
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
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...?"
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...
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
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
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.)
new??? Let's see...
Oh yeah, we survived the aftermath of the
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.
New?!!! Check this out...
Wine.com lays off 2/3 of its employees!
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?
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.
is a brief comparison of these two internet giants:
started sometime in 1994 as Virtual Vineyards (Mistake #1 - Goofy
name. Venture capitalists and serious wine stiffs don't like goofy
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
Vineyards posts their website in 1995. (Mistake #2 - What the hell
did they do from 1994 to 1995?)
posts their first website in 2000 on the FREE Web
Hosting site, Geocities.com. (Brilliant idea #2 - It was FREE!!!)
- Virtual Vineyards pays $3.3 million for the wine.com name.
(See if you can spot mistake #3...)
- 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.
creates their AOL-esque logo, probably paying some advertising firm HUGE
bucks for the design.
John creates the now familiar WinoStuff logo by modifying Microsoft
clip-art in a shareware graphics editor.
in 1999, wine.com gets another $50 million dollar investment from
some venture capitalist dudes.
in 2000, WinoJohn gets a discount on wine at a local retail store in
exchange for a link to their site.
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
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.
2001 - wine.com and wineshopper.com complete their merger and promptly
lay off 75 loyal wino-workers.
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.
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.
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.
are blaming interstate shipping regulations, in part, for wine.com's
troubles and their burn through of the estimated $150 million in total
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Ice bucket and ice - Required to
bring the temperature of the subject test beverage down to the optimum
Champagne flute - Science or no
science, I couldn't possibly drink champagne out of one of those wide, flat sherbet
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!)
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):
"A raisin will repeatedly
rise and fall in a glass of champagne."
To prove this hypothesis, I
designed the following experiment:
1) Pour champagne in a fluted
2) Drink first glass of champagne to make sure that there are no raisins in
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:
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
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.)
relax, enjoy, and drink more wine...