Archive for November, 2008

Party Games

Monday, November 24th, 2008


Blind games.

Blind games.

Steve Heimoff, today, wrote an interesting post about the importance of tasting blind. The core of his argument is that it eliminates taster bias and it levels the playing field.

I disagree vehemently. In short, blind tasting is a fun exercise and can make for an entertaining party game.

I believe tasting blind, while eliminating “cues” of reputation (from the label), relies primarily on the taster’s preferences. The idea of leveling the field disregards regional variation. This notion represents very misguided thinking which can only contribute to the much-decried homogenization and loss of diversity in wine. (more…)

Of numbers and friends.

Monday, November 17th, 2008


Network. From


I recently parted paths with a college friend. We had grown in different directions, become different people who valued different things. Time spent apart and out of touch made our personal and philosophical paths diverge ever more and the differences were painfully obvious when we occasionally spoke or met.

After college, we had gone our separate ways. I went to medical school and he became an I.T. guru and web designer and later developed his own e-commerce business. Numbers, and the bigger the better, seemed to take center stage in his thinking. I don’t blame him. E-commerce is a tough business and you have to be fierce to survive. (more…)

Let them drink Charles Shaw!

Friday, November 14th, 2008


From's Political Ticker

Ever get the feeling some people have no perspective?

Ever get the sense that some journalists get a little shrill in their pursuit of sensationalism (and, in the process, get a little sloppy with facts and too generous with opinion or fail to see how they interject their biases into the story)?

Apparently, that is the case with the folks who run CNN’s “Political Ticker”. Now they are decrying the choice of Shafer Cabernet “Hillside Select” 2003 to be poured for “leaders of the U.K., France, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and 11 developing economies” who are in Washington D.C. to address the current economic turmoil. (more…)

Pricey booze saves lives.

Friday, November 14th, 2008


Cheap Drunk

Cheap Drunk

Chris Rock jokes that the best way to reduce gun-related deaths is to make bullets so expensive, potential offenders would think twice about using them. That seems to be the logic underlying the results of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study which found that increasing alcohol taxes reduced alcohol-related deaths.

This study tracked the relationship between changes in alcohol prices (as affected by increased excise taxes) and the incidence of “alcohol poisoning and alcoholic liver disease, and deaths linked to alcohol, such as cirrhosis and chronic pancreatitis” in Alaska. It did not track alchol-related traffic fatalities. (more…)

Show your work.

Monday, November 10th, 2008


You have to show your work. From:

You have to show your work.

The wine bloggosphere is revisiting the “wine-scoring-is-bad” theme lately. Even the OWC has seen an intense debate over the meaning (or meaninglessness) of numerical wine rating – in which I was very active.

The main arguments in the anti-numbers and anti-objectivity debate are: 1) the 100-point system is meaningless and gives a false sense of accuracy, 2) wine is so subjective that one cannot establish a standardized numerical system and 3) wine is an aesthetic thing, and as a work of art, its quality cannot be captured with a number.

While I do not categorically disagree with all of these three arguments (I disagree with some more than I do with others), there are profound misconceptions underlying the thinking that drives those three arguments. (more…)

Who said zinfandel won’t age?

Monday, November 3rd, 2008


Giuseppe Battaglini in his tasting room.

Giuseppe Battaglini in his tasting room.

Somewhere along the course of the evolution of our country’s wine culture, the notion that zinfandel does not age took root in the collective thinking. Every myth and legend has a seed of truth. So I suppose the direction a majority of zinfandel producers took in styling their wines contributed to the origins of this notion. But like wine made from any other variety, a zinfandel wine has to have the right stuff to allow it to last through the years and evolve into something complex and pleasing.

I must admit that much of what has typified many zinfandels available in retail had not only reinforced the notion that these wines won’t age but it also kept me from being a fan. Things began to change for me over the years as I pushed myself to not cling to assumptions.