Some time ago, Oregon winemaker Jerry D. Murray said some nice things about me as part of one of those memes that require one to pass on the favor. It’s actually been a bit longer than I’m normally comfortable with. It has been difficult to put together something of substance because I am generally not very forthcoming about myself.
Finally, over the holidays, I was able to give this meme some thought. If the web, and blogging in particular, are to be more personal and the interaction is to be more conversational, then it makes sense that I should expose more of what I am about to those that read this blog and redwinebuzz.com. So, here are six things that most people may not (but conceivably might want to) know about me. I also recommend six sites that reflect what I value and enjoy.
I’m a cringer. I must confess that I visit HotChicksWithDoucheBags.com now and then. It offers a dose of nihilistic levity. However, I cannot tolerate shows like “Rock of Love”. I cannot draw pleasure or amusement from the humiliation or embarrassment of another person. I hold no delusions about how trashy these shows are and that the people appearing on these “reality” shows really don’t care how they are perceived. They are there for the exposure and the money. Still, the geek in me would rather watch “How it’s made”.
It’s been a long time since I rock ‘n rolled. I own six guitars. At the age of 16 I was captivated by guitar music in all its sounds and styles and my preferences evolved and changed as I matured. It has always been a hobby and a creative outlet. At one point in time, I played and composed frequently. I even converted a computer into a mini recording studio – not that I thought I’d be a star one day. But the older I get, the harder it is to find time to play. I’m happy, though, that my children share my interest and curiosity in the instrument and in music in general. My son and daughter both have guitars and I enjoy the opportunity to teach them and bond with them through the process.
Taste is in the ear of the beholder. In 2001, I underwent surgery to remove a tumor from my right ear. As a result of some complications, I temporarily lost taste in the right side of my tongue. Eating was a new reality in those circumstances. Chewing with the right side of the mouth gave a different set of sensations than chewing with the left side. The right side was all about texture and aromatics that wafted up the back of the throat to the olfactory receptors. Try to imagine what eating pizza may be like when you do not perceive the salty, savory, acidic, sweet and bitter taste components. The experience really brings out textures you never noticed and it brought to the forefront of my consciousness the fact that what we consider the sense of taste is a composite of multiple sensory modalities.
The doctor is: “IN”. It was this experience and my medical training that led to my current approach to describing wines. In medicine, we use a deductive process to make a diagnosis: a patient is examined and the findings are noted. The whole of the findings is considered against held knowledge to determine what it all says about the patient – their state of health and what single disease could explain the given set of symptoms or findings. No opinion or conclusion is made until all the facts are laid out and other possibilities are ruled. How one feels about the patient, personally, has nothing to do with anything. This led me to conclude that when I am reviewing a wine, the most sound and reliable thing I can do as a wine reviewer, then, is not tell my readers what the wine made me think of or feel or remember, or to what degree I liked it, but to give them a concrete, matter-of-fact account of its aromas, flavors and textures across a period of time, a range of temperatures and with a particular food.
It’s not about me. Much of my philosophy can be expressed by the following: “It’s not about me. It’s about the wine and the consumer”. While I did not set out to be a consumer advocate, I have come to be uncomfortable with a lot of the popular wine research done these days. A good example was the Stanford-Caltech study which utilized fMRI to demonstrate that novice wine tasters can be deceived about their enjoyment of wine by suggestion of a wine’s retail price. These are fascinating studies in psychology, cognition and perception and many are well-designed and well-executed, but they are economics studies at their core and benefit those selling wine and not the consumers. Ultimately, my discomfort stems from that fact as well as the belief that these studies can subsequently undermine broader American wine culture.
You have to come correct. I’ve been exploring the realm of specialty spirits lately. Besides an absinthe kick, I’ve also dabbled in premium tequilas and, when budget allows, single malt scotch. In my pursuit of the green fairy, I’ve spent a good deal of time on wormwoodsociety.org A recent visit led me to read a review in which I came across a term that most wine writers no longer have the stones to use: “correct”. This is the notion of correct aromas and flavors – those expected as the proper and optimal expression of the blend of herbs, spices and botanicals in the formulation of the particular absinthe. I have to applaud the use of the unabashed and unfettered use of the word “correct” because I believe that there is nothing wrong with it.
Six sites I recommend;
1. Wine and Food Economics Blog Karl Storchmann many not post very frequently, but when he does, it’s interesting and intelligent insight, discussion and analysis.
2. DaddyWineBucks Eric Cohen of Waugh Cellars and Six Degrees Wines writes very well. It is a fond envy of his writing abilities that draws me to his blog. Eric’s style is personal and written in an easy, causal storytelling tone. He’s witty, and peppers his writing with good doses of humor.
3. Rational Denial I absolutely love the way J David Harden thinks. He embraces the science geek within and conducts informal experiments. He has the mind and attitude of an observer – as evidenced by his Palate Training exercises (like lining up a variety of pears to smell and taste and then reporting on the experience).
4. Appellation America This site has really set the bar high for wine information. Several thousand pages deep, Appellation America’s greatest, boldest endeavor is its Best of Appellation program. Through panel tastings, the BoA (under the guidance of Clark Smith) seeks to define regional character. This is the logical complement to the descriptive nature of the AVA system. It fills in the holes inherent in the AVA system and, if executed well, it can give clarity and meaning to the AVA system. If successful, this program stands to make a monumental impact on American wine, American wine culture and the perception of American wine in the global context.
5. GrapeCrafter What can I say about Clark Smith that has not been said before? In the last weeks I’ve gotten to know Clark a little better off line which has given me a better understanding of what he is about. For all the controversy and wide-ranging opinion about him, I think he really enjoys sharing knowledge and discussing wine. I recommend checking out his blog especially if you have a penchant for technically dense writing.
6. Two days per bottle What a seemingly simple concept! Take a bottle of wine, drink some and write about it, save some for tomorrow, taste the rest of the bottle the following day, write about that and then pull together both days’ observations to give a deeper description of the subject wine. This actually can demonstrate a reticent wine’s potential for age or expose another’s flair as fleeting fluff. In the process, one can seen some interesting a wine can got through. Good job, David Honig!
Email & Share