750 mL

An independent, public journal of tasting notes for hundreds of wines from around the world.

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December 16, 2011

We'll Be Right Back

I've been reluctant to write this post (apparently), but you've been asking, and I appreciate how many of you actually like this blog. An appreciation which, for some reason, I'm going to use to change everything. I've been busy these past few months with a lot of non-wine work, a lot of whiskey drinking, and some exciting new projects--potentially for the food and wine industry--that you'll all be seeing in the new year. 2012 is going to be amazing. And while working on those projects, I found myself falling out of love with 750 mL.

This website taught me about wine. I started it on a whim after walking home from an impromptu wine tasting that I was only invited to because someone else had canceled. I'd never, to that point, had a great bottle of wine. I was still trying to remember the difference between cabernet and merlot. But I was inspired (and honored) during that event. And on my walk home, drunker than I'd ever been in my life yet still completely--frighteningly--self-aware, I resolved to write whatever I was feeling down. And so, on a balmy July evening in 2004, I launched 750 mL with these few words:

94 Luce della Vite, Toscana Luce
This Super Tuscan flexes its muscles proudly. Complex, spicy, dark fruit nose. Deep earth -- raw soil -- from an assertive sangiovese presence, with elegant blackberries behind it. Hints of oak, but never overpowering. Long, developing finish.

I never told a soul. For one, this was boring as shit writing (can you tell who'd I'd been reading?). I'd just graduated college with a degree in creative writing and modern American lit. This isn't exactly the sort of language that swept me off my feet. But I was starting to learn a new language, a new literature, and trying to keep things simple.

Second, I really had no idea what I was talking about. I didn't know what a Super Tuscan was. I still wasn't clear what "oak" actually did to a wine. But writing these things down helped me pace myself through an understanding of wine. I was teaching myself. Testing myself. I was in love, and wanted to make sure I never forgot a moment of it.

After a few weeks, though, this stuff started getting around on the internet. I apparently had an incredible knack for SEO. And the criticism I was getting was that, well, my notes weren't exactly on point. If I'm going to say oak, I need to say whether I'm tasting French or American. Is it tannic? And you told us what it smelled like and how it finished, but what about the midpalate?

I jumped ship. This is how everyone talked about wine, and it drove me nuts because it never meant a damn thing to my customers (I was working at a boutique wine store at the time). They didn't care about the technicals of a wine. They wanted to know if I liked it. They wanted to know if it would go well with dinner. They wanted to know what their grandfather would think, who inexplicably three years ago flew over to the states from Sardegna to retire with his family in a West Town Chicago two-flat. It will remind him of when you were young.

That was the website I wanted to read. So, over the years, 750 mL developed into the site it sort-of is today. A lyrical and open conversation about the experience of drinking wine. I told myself I would never sell anything on the site. I would never make recommendations. And, above all, I would never "rate" a wine. Short of a few misinformed months of advertising on the blog (I was experimenting), I held true to these principles and just wrote whatever the hell I wanted to.

You guys kept on reading.

But I don't think about wine the same way I did in 2004, or even last year for that matter. 750 mL is no longer the website that I want to read.

I've had the great fortune of meeting a lot of wonderful winemakers, retailers, writers, and distributors over the years, and what I've found is that this is really their story to tell--not mine. That's the story I want to read. The judgment on their work--well, that's just not up to me. Who really cares what I think? Or, for godsake, what Parker thinks? Maybe a decade or two ago, it did matter. But you guys aren't who you were back then. Drinkers today are smart.

That's why I'm relaunching 750 mL in 2012. The new website will be completely redesigned (thank God) from scratch. And since my CSS skills are pretty rudimentary, it will be refreshingly simple. I hope to bring some of these personalities to life and start revising the story of wine through their eyes. To that end, 750 mL will soon feature interviews with some of my favorite winemakers, spotlights on some off-the-beaten path grapes, and--well--probably more. I don't know. I'm kind of making it up as I type this, but it's getting me really excited.

Follow me on twitter @750_mL and email me at 750mL.blogspot@gmail.com to sign up for my newsletter. I appreciate all your support through the years, and I need you guys to stick with me. So please stay tuned. We'll be right back.

10 Comments:

Blogger Todd Fusco said...

May I suggest an exposé on sparkling Prie Blanc?

12:48 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

Fucking Primadonna. :)

Do what you gotta do, Nilay. I lurk mostly, but I like your goal. Make this the site you want to read.

Know I still read it.

2:14 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Thank you, guys. I'm excited about it because I'm hoping to take it in a slightly more journalistic direction, which is the kind of writing I really want to start focusing on. Hopefully the wine professionals will oblige.

2:18 PM  
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Anonymous Jack said...

I think re-designing is a good Idea. Your site is nice to begin with but I can appreciate a blogger that strives for improvement. I am re-designing my site as well. I will be using a wordpress platform though. I like those better as I am not as limited on my creativity. Great post though.

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May 05, 2011

Champagne Officially Dead

I work in marketing. I get it, boys. Sometimes, you've got to bend over to sell your product. And as long as your product is good deep down inside, I'll cut you some slack if it means getting the word out. Veuve Clicquot: You get no slack, because as tremendous as your La Grande Dame is, the basic wine most of us know you by is, well, I think I described it as sweet and flabby as the girl who broke up with you the second week of summer camp. But Dom. Dom Perignon you're damn different. No matter how popular you are, in your best vintages you're a serious fucking wine. A tete-du-cuvee if there ever was one, and one that plays to those yeasty, bready, I-feel-warm-inside flavors that few even know exist.

So what the fuck is this?



Now available at Binny's.

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April 13, 2011

The President Drinks Classy California Wine

Obama Wine312 Dining Diva just let us know that President Obama will dine at MK when he returns to Chicago on Thursday to kick off his re-election campaign. No surprise there. The president has always been a bit of a foodie, frequenting MK, Spiaggia, and Graham Elliot over the years, not to mention this appearance he made on the local public television program Check Please. But his choice of wines do come as a bit of surprise. The president will spend Thursday night with a few glasses of Qupe chardonnay and Au Bon Climat pinot noir. The two humble, moderately priced wines are among California's most elegant, representing in many ways the wines of Oregon and France, with rich, heady aromas, but little in the way of power that you might expect someone like, say, the ruler of the free world to want.
Reviews of each coming in a few days. Add the blog to your RSS feed or email me at 750mL.blogspot@gmail.com with the subject line OBAMA to be notified when those notes go live.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Eric Ziegenhagen said...

I have a habit of looking at framed White House menus on tasting-room walls in California. A whole lot of Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch chardonnay at state dinners during the Clinton and Bush years.

4:03 PM  

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April 10, 2011

07 Domaine Berthelemot, Monthelie

There's a guy I hang out with sometimes, a friend of a friend's friend, really, who insists I'm missing it. You have got to try Spanish wines, he says. And Argentina--best value out there. Have you ever had Malbec with steak? Well, yeah, but let me look interested. Because I dig you, man. I like that you care this much about your wines. And they are your wines. I don't think you could like them more if you made them yourself. You've got to admit, (we'll call you:) Joey. My Burgundies aren't half bad. And yeah, there's even some pinot in Cali and Oregon you've got to check out. Why bother? I like to taste my wines, he says. And, of course, pinot is just a delicate flower. If RED WINE is a finely tailored suit, then pinot noir specifically is a wilting corsage. On a wrinkled lapel. So, Joey, try this one. Yeah, it's Burgundy. You know, the "elegant" "ethereal" stuff that all the sensitive, Dr. Phil-type wine drinkers talk about. Not a man's wine. I mean, you couldn't drink this with kangaroo, could you? I don't know. But when I pull out this bottle, I'd hide Skippy the Bush. You could drink this wine with tires. Forget the steak. I'd make a cocktail of this wine served up with two fingers of A1. It's a massive, blockbuster bottle for Burgundy. A nose-twitching black pepper bomb that first makes you think of Cote-Rotie, then grenache from southern Rhone, before you know--insist even--that it's actually a 2-year aged tempranillo from Spain. When your buddy tells you it's pinot, and you say, duh. Obviously. I just don't drink a lot of Cali pinots, which is why I missed it. Well, actually, it's Burgundy. And not at all as divergent or suspect as this description makes it sound. In fact, this is dyed in the wool French wine. One that explores the soft, luxuriously sweet cherry taste of pinot noir shouldered on an Atlas of fine French oak and what--against all odds--was a harvestable growing season. Question as we might. Scoff as we might. That its alcohol went a bit too far. That the slick sheen on our glass is nothing our grandfathers would have tolerated. Well they're all dead, aren't they. Aren't they. And now this wine speaks for them. And says we have, above all, represented where we came from. We were true to ourselves. And we never wavered, in spite of everything, spitting at everything, we never wavered in our message. Which is to tell you it is not we, the black vine, who have ever changed. It is you. Your world. Your world has changed. So here we are, pushing up from the ground to show you what you are made of.

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April 07, 2011

Betz Family Winery Sold

The breaking news from Paul Gregutt (via Storyteller Wine Company). Any my first reaction, my only reaction, was a calm, 21-gram exhale. One of the great errors of this blog has been my lack of focus on Bob Betz' wines, when--let's be candid here--I have a clear lean toward the wines of the Pacific Northwest. And yet I've managed to write about just one Betz wine: the brilliant, decadent, and thoughtful 2005 Betz Besoleil grenache, to this day one of the finest wines I've ever had. From anywhere. But I have had many of the Betz Family's bottles, from vintages of the Clos de Betz (which will have you believe in merlot again) to the Cote-Rotie-inspired La Serenne syrah. Who could write about them? I could hardly process them, much less take what I felt drinking those wines and turn that into words. And who would I be to say anything about this master (no, really, the guy's actually got a Master of Wine degree, which would be a PhD in any other field)? The Betz wines make me self-conscious. They make me question what, if anything, I really know about wine, and wonder if I'm wasting my time writing, when I should really devote my life to making it and sharing it with friends. I hope, so deeply and personally, that what Betz is calling a "partnership" is indeed that.

Almost universally regarded as one of this country's greatest winemakers [damn right], he told me "I'll still be the winemaker but not have to worry about the day to day business things, the payroll, etc. I will do the vineyard work, the crush, the blends... I get to do the fun stuff. I don't see a lot changing in terms of winemaking, vineyard sources, stuff in the cellar, protocol. I'm actually very excited about it. And we'll be able to carve out the one thing that has eluded us – time."
Because you can keep the vineyards. And the barrels. And the yeast. The same rain. The same sun. But winemakers make wine. And great winemakers make great wine. They put their name on it. So stick around, Bob.

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April 02, 2011

Introducing Broke Vegetarian

Oh, you'll like this. And there's a connection.
Vegetarian/wine pairings to come.

Read/watch/consume: Broke Vegetarian.

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March 30, 2011

750 mL Announces Merger

In a deal to send shockwaves through the industry, it's my great pleasure to announce that 750 mL has merged with... Tattoo McGrew. Well, let me explain. I'm 750 mL. And she's my girlfriend... fiancee.... I got married this weekend. So apologies for this leave of absence, but we're not dead yet. In fact, we're more alive than ever before, and looking forward to posting more frequent write-ups all spring and summer long. You'll hear about all the bubbles we popped, maybe even the brilliant cocktails we had. And, as I've grown, so too will 750 mL, expanding to include more photos, more event reviews, and much, much more of my esoteric, inflated, and sometimes slightly creepy witticisms about the wines I'm so honored to drink each day.

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February 26, 2011

04 Jean-Jacques Confuron, Romanee St.-Vivant Grand Cru

When I first tried this wine, it was with the brilliant importer and winemaker Scott Paul Wright in what was either the nicest tasting room I've ever been in, or his den. Because whether it was Scott, my fiancee, or my great friend Michael who set this whole thing up for me in the first place, there was something unmistakably homey, welcoming, and nearly loving about the entire affair. I like simplicity, in my wine and in my life. And despite having to travel across the country, stop in Denver, and drive down winding Oregon backroads to get here, this whole event was so… simple. Buy some meat and cheese and meet me down the road. We're going to drink some wine. Nilay, meet Scott. Hi Scott. Holy fuck, it's Scott. I should've worn a tie, maybe. Or carried around my copy of Jancis. Then there was the table. No table cloth. A bunch of chairs. Welcome. Sit wherever you'd like. Oh, you brought snacks (truffled sheep's milk cheese, duck prosciutto to start). How nice of you. At least that's what I think he said. This was about the time my ears started ringing, pupils shrinking as I stared at that table of wines and saw this Romanee St.-Vivant. I suppose the Marc Chauvet, Saint-Verain, Chablis, Meursault, LeClerc, Pommard, Vosne-Romanee, and Scott's own La Paulee and Audrey wines would be good enough to start. You know, before we got into this Romanee St.Vivant. (Was I the only one who could see this? How come no one was saying anything about it?) So an hour or two later, we were home. After all those other wines--each absolutely brilliant in its own right, particularly Scott's just-then-released La Paulee--I felt like we were returning somewhere with this bottle. No, not Chicago of course. Somewhere far more ancestral. That's what I mean when I say things like "purity" or "weightlessness," which is what I blurted out about this when it hit my tongue. It's a transporting wine. Not in the way great wine is, but in the way the first chill in September is a constant reminder of the first time I met my wife in college. Or, the best slice of pizza. Or Old Spice. Or whatever little thing you cling on to the memory of when all else fails. In case of hopelessness, break glass. Well, pop the cork at least. As I (barely) remember describing it that day to Scott (how embarrassing) and how I think of it today, the 2004 Jean-Jacques Confuron St.-Vivant Grand Cru is The Chronic. It gets richer in the glass and explodes with aroma after aroma on what seems to be a mission to become the world's most perfect morsel of toffee. That, with its whisp of diner pepper and light framboise gives this wine more than taste--it gives it… crescendo. Up and up and up we go. Forever expanding, growing, taking on new shapes and faces and loves and memories. Up and up and up. Until we are home.

2 Comments:

Blogger Drew said...

"...and explodes with aroma after aroma on what seems to be a mission to become the world's most perfect morsel of toffee."

That is why I read your work, right there.

10:32 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Thanks, man. Means a lot to me.

5:18 PM  

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February 25, 2011

What's the Right Glass for a D Cup?

Breast milk is an issue of provenance. I know my abused cow milk comes from grass and grain. I prefer that to cosmos, ranch, and cigarettes.



Source: NPR


The issue has surfaced again in this week's Time Out Chicago, where Chef Giuseppe Tentori of Boka and GT Fish and Oyster references my Stump the Chef challenge, which I just barely lost in the final moments. For the good of mankind.

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February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day, Don't Drink That

I know I can't convince you otherwise. Whatever happens today, you're probably going to eat chocolate. Either in the warm embrace of your loved one, lit by an embering fire and 9 1/2 Weeks muted on an old TV across the room, or alone on a pillow against the wall listening to Aimee Mann while figuring out how to play Clue by yourself. It's not going to stop. So you'll open a little bubbly to celebrate, maybe lighten the mood. But, odds are, it's not going to taste very good. It was one of my first major letdowns when I got into wine. Everyone said Champagne goes with everything. And Champagne with chocolate is just plain... sexy. Unless you eat only the darkest chocolates, though, there are a few things you have to contend with when it comes to Champagne: sugar and milk. I assume you wouldn't put sparkling wine in a glass of Nestle Quik, no matter how cute the bunny. And so you shouldn't blindly buy sparkling wine with chocolate. As savory as it may seem, most chocolate is anywhere from 15-30% pure sugar. And when you put a dry wine next to sweet food, the wine will often taste sour or bitter. With sparkling wine, this common mismatch also accentuates the bubbles, leaving you with a mouthful of lemony foam. That puckering may help you kiss, but the gagging that follows could be a little embarrassing. How hot. So err on the side of a wine that's sweet, even if you don't typically drink sweet wines. The easy way out is something like Moscato d'Asti, a wine that is--by my standards--a dessert wine itself, or something to spend a lazy afternoon in a field somewhere getting drunk on. But then, so are wine coolers. Fortunately, there is a middle ground. Sparkling wines made (quite traditionally in fact) with just a touch of sugar that'll be enough to round out the edges with the chocolate and let you quickly move on to the real business of this night. If you like particularly sweet wines, seek out those labeled Demi-Sec. In terms of the easier-to-find wines, the ubiquitous Moet & Chandon "White Star" actually works very well. But for a step up in taste (and a step down in price), I'd seek out the wines of Cerdons in Eastern France, whose beautiful roses are full of sultry strawberry and muddled blackberry tastes. What's more, these wines are typically under 10% alcohol, which means you men can drink a few glasses and not suffer the... consequences... later (see: Whisky). Several wineries in and around Champagne are also releasing bottles labeled Methode Ancestral, which tend to have not only a bit of residual sugar, but also some residual yeast, lending a creaminess that goes well with the milk component of chocolate. If pouring some sugar on it just isn't how you roll, though, there are plenty of drier Champagnes that will work with chocolate. The key is to find the richest, and these wines are often based on the pinot noir grape, which can have slight chocolate notes unto itself. My default for such wines is anything labeled Bouzy, perhaps my favorite region of Champagne for everyday drinking, and in particular the roses of Andre Clouet and Jean Vesselle. For a similar, more widely available option, the Gruet Blanc de Noirs is also a safe bet. For those of you not interested in the nuances of wine and food pairing, I have a much simpler answer: Open Cristal. Have sex.

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January 30, 2011

06 Domaine Parigot Pere et Fils, Meursault "Les Vireuils Dessous"

I'm not a renegade, but I've spent most of my life questioning why things have to be any one way. I like rules, I just hate following them. The older I get, the more I find my revolutions not really being about doing any new, but instead just going back to a certain way I remember things being. And when it comes to chardonnay, I can only revolve back to Burgundy, where this Les Vireuils--a wine like millions of bottles made in and around Meursault--reminds me why. There are better wines, tasted in white rooms or clay caves, but few patently more memorable. We could have had another wine tonight. Sure, we could've tracked down the 2002s. We could've gotten one from a vineyard less easterly-facing and quickly ripening as Les Vireuils, talked about the spice and cellar potential. But we don't have to. We get to just enjoy this. This wine has an incalculably floral aroma, like a springtime spent rolling in lilacs and pollen with your dog before you realized you'd spend the rest of your life working. We'll get back there. This wine is sure of it. Buttery rich, sure, like fresh cream in a room of dry potpourri, which is less a taste than an assurance. Go play. And if the sun burns you, sleep in tomorrow morning. There are days of light to come. There's life after life. We'd bottle it if we could.

We occasionally accept sponsors at 750 mL, though they have no influence on the wines we choose to review. Wine delivery deal - 1/2 off shipping with code "750m96"

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January 29, 2011

07 Cayuse Vineyards, Walla Walla Valley En Chamberlin Vineyard Syrah

Nothing's really happened to the wine over the year I've been drinking it. In fact, it's really still not much different than the 05 Cailloux. Same burnt, sulfury dark fruit. Smoky, mysterious. Not particularly different than dressing a deer in the field during a forest fire. Except that I asked my friends, who don't normally drink these wines, if they liked it. One said, "yeah." The other: "Yeeeeeaaahhhhh." So you have it. This is a tremendous wine. A syrah that, if you know syrah, you'll get. You won't necessarily want it, but you'll get. Maybe, if you think hard enough, behind all these carnal flavors that, if you wait, will blow off into more natural fruit by the next morning, there's even a bit of orange. You won't care. You'll just sit there. And you'll leave your glass and order a gin tonic instead. Or you'll sit there and, when someone turns to you and says, Miss, I think this is your scarf, you'll turn, eyes glazed, mouth open in anticipiation, "Yeeeeaaahhh."

2 Comments:

Anonymous Eric landon said...

Sounds like an interesting wine from a great region. Have you heard of Blaufränkisch, its a Syrah that we wrote about from Austria. I love an interesting Syrah.

11:27 AM  
OpenID jauntsadjacent said...

I love these wines. En Chamberlin got the big write up this year - however I feel as if En Cerise is far superior - En Cerise is by far my favorite Cayuse wine. I have drank all these wines in multiple vintages - if you have the chance try the En Cerise!

11:07 PM  

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January 09, 2011

NV Pierre Delize, Vin Mousseux Brut Blanc de Blancs

One of the first things I learned about Champagne (and sparkling wine) was to watch the bubbles. A steady stream shooting straight up the middle meant quality. One of the two great myths about wine (the second, that "legs" mean quality--unless your idea of quality is high alcohol and sugar). For the most part, bubbles aren't really about the wine. They're about the glass. Sparkling wine is evenly carbonated. There's no drop that has more bubbles than another. (Sounds obvious now, doesn't it?). And so the bubbles are in fact more related to something called a point of nucleation. Where everything explodes. Nature craves chaos, and if bubbly could have its way, it would shoot out in every direction all at once (which, incidentally, is how I feel when I drink a glass of Krug). It's our job to rein it in. Even the clumsy can dance. Even the colicky can sing. And, so, you give even the most vibrant of vin mousseux a platform, a clean bed to bounce on, and it will usually abide. A clean glass with a small etch or divot in the bottom, and you will usually get your "steady stream." Science aside, there's some pretty serious poetry to this. Because this humble, yet elegant Delize chardonnay--that I'm drinking out of the same hand-polished Riedel sparkling wine glass I drank Cristal out of after proposing to my proof-that-life-does-work-out fiancee--looks as good as that glass of Cristal. Which brings me, perhaps, to what sparkling wine has taught me more than anything else. We are only as good as those we are surrounded by. We can be firecrackers. We can be flat and limp of spirit. Dry, austere. Sweet. We can tickle. We can strip the enamel off your teeth. Some say we give them headaches. But in the right company, we all make sense. I hate your friends. You hate mine. And it doesn't matter because they're not here. It's me and you. And, for what it's worth, I like that. I like that it's us. I like that you can have your life, and I can have mine. I like that as dull as others might find me, you see some sort of beauty in it. I like that I admire you because most of the people I know are nothing like you. In this room, here we are. As perfectly whatever as the other needs to be. No, don't ask your mom about me. Don't text 6989 to find out if I'm your match. And who cares if I'm a Gemini, anyway? This is working. This is sparkling. This is how it's supposed to feel on our lips, on our tongues, in our guts with our eyes closed.

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December 19, 2010

08 Local Wine Company, California Sonoma County Alexander Valley "Sweet Spot" Cabernet Sauvignon

I've been asking you to write in. I need you to tell me I don't know what I'm talking about. Fine, I write some obscure tasting of a pinot noir you'll probably never try. I tell you there are ways to mercy and forgiveness that revolve solely around Champagne. But when it comes to cabernet, well, I guess I keep my mouth shut. I have to. I hate to say it, but you come here as much for my opinion on cabernet as I go to Robert Parker to check up on my notes for sauvignon blanc. My point is, it's your fault. Yeah, I said it. It's your fault for not catching me and saying, hey, Slovenian wine aside, you're really missing some of the pride and joy. You're missing the heart of the USA. "USA" as it says so proudly on this label. And proud it should be. Because the thing is, cabernet sauvignon as a grape is brilliant. When ripened correctly, it walks right up to the line of port without being sweet. It's thick; it's tannic; it's tremendous with food. And it never happens. It never does. For some reason, winemakers, or grad students in southern California, insist on covering up these wonderful tastes with oak, or strange fermentation methods, or a cost so prohibitive that who cares what it tastes like anyway. Which is why, when I do venture into the world of cabernet, I go straight to the northwest. Which brings me to this Californian wine. I was blinded on this wine today and I guessed that it was a young cab from Owen Roe, made by David O'Reilly. It's no coincidence, because as it turns out, the team at Local Wine Co. includes David on the wines under Tilda and Murphy's Law. 700 miles south, but nothing changes. If we have to drink American cabernet, this is what we must drink. It's decadent, sometimes too spicy and alcoholic, but balanced with a touch of acid, a hint of meatiness, and gorgeously dry tannins that stick to your gums and the middle of your tongue, cleaning up whatever the wine leaves behind. It's luscious with chef-like flavors of cassis and green fig brulee. I just had a starter at Graham Elliot that wasn't this good. Manjari chocolate and a finish of espresso. You won't guzzle it down. You'll have a glass or two with ribeye (oh, for godsake please make some ribeye to go with this wine). That's enough. You don't need more. And what's left, you'll leave on your coffee table and have tomorrow, when it'll start to taste like chocolate and shiitake mushrooms, truffles if you're lucky. You are lucky. You're lucky that cabernet is being crafted instead of just collected. You're lucky that winemakers in this country care so much, when they frankly don't have to. Cabernet, cute label, always sells. Makes no difference what it tastes like. Except it does. Except if we're going to put our name on this, it's going to be good. Except that the point's been all along not to keep my mouth shut, but as open as it can possibly be.

This wine was provided compliments of Local Wine Company, and if you think that biased my opinion, you're a complete idiot. We occasionally accept sponsors at 750 mL, though they have no influence on the wines we choose to review. French Wine at WineChateau.com - Buy 6 or more bottles and get 50% off shipping with promo code "750m69."

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December 10, 2010

750 mL Stumps the Chef

I thought I was sick for suggesting it, though I wouldn't have been the first. But then, Chef Giuseppe Tentori of Chicago's Michelin one-star Boka actually took me up on it. Not quite Iron Chef, but just imagine the chairman for a second, announcing "tonight's secret ingredient is...." He raises his arms, lifting the metal dome, now suspended in mid-air over a table full of...? Breast milk. Chef Tentori asked the Twitter masses to select a new ingredient to incorporate into his menu--something difficult to find. Today, he culled his list of entries on Twitter down to three, and somehow I made the cut. Now, the voting begins. And even if you don't live in Chicago, you've got to admit that seeing one of the country's best young chefs try to source breast milk is a cause we've all got to get behind. To vote, tweet "breast milk #stumpthechef" to @giuseppetentori. I just threw up a little in my mouth.

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Time to Mull it Over

When I first got into wine, I smelled terrible. You were never to shower beforehand: apparently your wine might taste too Zestfully clean. And you had to drink it out of special glasses. Reds were served at 56 degrees; whites at 48. You held it by the stem or the base—touching the bowl could destroy the thermodynamics, you know! Then I saw it. The light peering into my plain white tasting room. I heard it. The music and laughter outside; the silence of no tasting notes. I slowly dug my way out of the dungeon. Outside? Grown Spanish women gravity bonging the local wine. Raw teak tables covered in hot food and pitchers of sangria. Kegged Chablis. And, across the street, through the windows, more laughter, early Christmas trees and clear glass mugs full of steaming wine. Which got me thinking: Mulled wine. Read more and get my recipe at The Awl...

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December 06, 2010

08 Quattro Mani, [toh-kai] Goriska Brda D.O.C. Exto Gredic Vineyard

First off, the name. Quattro Mani. Four hands. Which, in spirit is right. But, let's be clear. There are no four people in the world who make wine like this. This wine, a project by wine importer Domaine Select to sort of benchmark four traditional types of Italian wine, is quite clearly from only one hand. In fact, I'd say it's his fingerprint--a wine that most of you will hate, or quite quickly ignore, and the sort of thing you'll just have to trust me, or your wine merchant, or your sommelier on. It's the handiwork of Slovenian wine savant Ales Kristancic from across the northeastern border of Italy in Slovenia--if Italy's the boot, I guess that makes this the butt cheek. A few nights ago, I tasted this wine out blind to five people with tapas and only my fiancee liked it. Which tells me one thing: I make good decisions. And if I seem like someone you might love (no pressure), then you too will like this wine. I suppose that's really the point. This is a wine more of character, sense, relationships than anything else. There's a whispering beauty to it. I want, desperately, to boast of the stewed apple and golden apple skin taste. How, as it sits in the glass, it slowly picks up the flavor of coconut and cinnamon. Flavors you normally get from wood, even though this wine sees no wood aging. You could drink it slow and taste nothing, or fast with your eyes squinting and taste the world. But the truth is, I'm not so sure that's what it tastes like. I've had six bottles in the past two weeks, and I don't know what it tastes like. It's like trying to count the carbon atoms in a diamond ring. Which is to say, this wine is elemental. Fair to say, this is tocai's DNA. Not that that matters. Not that that will make your meal better. Not that it will impress your friends. But it will make me happy. Happy to know that these fresh, pure, unvarnished flavors--whatever they are--are wine at its most basic. Before all the sappy slogans, the business consultants, the goddamn writers and all their scores. Before all that, there were grapes. And, a few months later, there were rotten grapes that someone bothered to drink. His name was Ales, an old Bohemian word meaning: Defender of Mankind.

6 Comments:

Blogger Chuck McElroy IV said...

I'm honestly not much for Italian wines, especially ones that taste truly "Italian." I think that Banfi's Brunello di Montalcino ruined it for me.... But otherwise I would like to try something along these lines if you suggest that it's worth mentioning here. any idea where i could easily find one in the southeast?

10:40 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Full disclosure, he's a friend of mine, but he's also one of the only merchants I've seen really champion this wine. You should be able to snag a few bottles at storytellerwine.com. I've seen it on a few other sites as well. Just make sure it's a fresh, well stored bottle, as this is a wine that could very easily spoil in the heat. Alternatively, I'd encourage you to go to your local wine store and look for other bottles of tocai, and similar varietals such as arneis and cortese (gavi).

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Sandeep said...

Nice Post. On a related note, Quatro Mani's Fanciacorta Brut just dropped... and Mario Falcetti killed it especially for near 22 a bottle...

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Jean Tournier said...

Nice post, this is the kind of wine I like, and I'm definitely going to give it a try!

8:07 AM  
Blogger Niall said...

This is straight-up my favorite "cheap" wine, and he'll, I don't even know what the scare-quoted are for.

I don't know a lot about wine, but for a nascent sense of what I like. Chenin Blanc, in its many guises, is certainly one of them; whatever Frank Cornelissen uses for his Munjabel 4 Bianco is another, though perhaps that speaks more to method than material; Friulano/Sauvignonese/"Toh-Kai," or whatever you'll call it, gets on like gangbusters with me. I could, would, should drink this every night. His Movia stuff is pretty damned swell, too, but diminishing returns steer me right back to this gaudy green thing most of the time.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Niall said...

"he'll."

Man disappointed by smartphone.

10:11 PM  

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November 30, 2010

Eater Chicago: First Look at Longman & Eagle's New Hotel

Well, not a "hotel," exactly. And, as co-owner Peter Toalson told me last night, definitely not a "bed and breakfast." If only whiskey started with a "b," this place might have a more alliterative name. For now, it's the Inn. Stationed one floor above what you might call a gastropub, or a saloon. Or a Michelin-starred restaurant. Anyway, call it what you will, Logan Square's Longman & Eagle restaurant is now just two weeks away from opening its much-anticipated... hostel? Check out my post today for Eater.com for a first, inside look at the pristinely hip(ster) six-room hotel. And a big thanks to Ari Bendersky for some clutch late-night editing and for driving down there today to shoot some great pics.


We occasionally accept sponsors at 750 mL, though they have no influence on the wines we choose to review. Get 1/2 off shipping when you purchase bourbon in quantities of 6 bottles or more with code "750m79".

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November 16, 2010

Michelin, Etc.

The Michelin finally came to Chicago this year, and today they announced the city's first-ever starred restaurants. Molecular gastro-Mecca Alinea won the coveted three stars--as did the exact opposite restaurant, the pristine seafood temple that is L2o. I've been fortunate enough to eat at both. Or, I guess the word is "dine." But at once-a-decade prices, Alinea and L2o are not exactly where I'd go to catch up with a few friends visiting from out of town. (Incidentally, former Alinea chef de cuisine Jeff Pikus and former L2o assistant sommelier Jean Tomaro came together to run River North's Gilt Bar, a Michelin Bib Gourmand winner, and are now collaborating on the soon-to-be-launched Maude's Liquor Bar). The Michelin was designed to be a travel guide, and the more of these swank, reverential restaurants I see on the list, the more I realize it was meant for people who generally travel alone. Or at least like to feel like they're alone, focused completely on the dish in front of them, expecting--at all costs--a new folded napkin at their plate every time they return from the bathroom. Or cough. To be honest with you, I had to look up where the Elysian Hotel was. And that's not to say I wouldn't want to eat at the quarters' two-star Ria--in fact, I've already made a reservation. I just can't normally think of a situation where I would want to visit a hotel--whether it's for Ria, The Peninsula's Avenues (**), Park Hyatt's (brilliant) NoMI (*), Seasons (*) at The Four Seasons, or The Trump's Sixteen (*)--to chow next to a bunch of rich people from New York, or London, and probably not Logan Square. What would we even talk about? Exchange rates? Hertz Gold Club Rewards? The first thing I do when I land in a new town is grab a good drink. Planes make me edgy. But, what's more, I like to know what a city's all about, and the worst spot to do that is in my hotel, a few floors down from my luggage. Cabbing into midtown Manhattan for the first time, I remember accosting some locals for recommendations and found the wonderfully simple Manchester Pub (on 2nd Ave and E. 49th, zero stars). I went there every day I was in town, always finding time in between visits to Apiary (zero stars) and Prune (zero stars), where I got made fun of constantly for my Cubs hat. Which is how it should be. I'm not sure what I would've done if they'd sent me to Per Se (***). If you're going to guide a tourist around Chicago, just coming off the plane into O'Hare or the terrifying black hole that is the street in front of Midway Airport, you might be apt to send them first for a casual housemade beer and bacon popcorn at Revolution Brewing or a calm, crafted cocktail at The Whistler, before whisking them off to some sous-vide trotters at Trotter's (**). Which is to say, the Michelin is by no means wrong. Who in their right mind would argue against restaurants like this? The question is, what is Michelin trying to do? And how exactly is this still a tourist's guide? On a website that tells me I "may also enjoy" a Tailgating Rolling Cooler, how is there not a greater push toward what slightly more common, typical "tourists" would be interested in? Which is where, for all its faults, the Bib Gourmand comes in. Much like Parker's 90-pointers are for wine, Michelin's Bib Gourmand list for me captures all the eloquence and excitement of this city's cuisine. I can only hope it won't be overlooked. The 46 restaurants cruise through our best neighborhoods, ensuring you'll not only get a taste of our food, but our culture as well. From Avondale's Urban Belly to West Lakeview's Mixteco Grill, these are the restaurants we actually eat at. These are the places we take our friends. Not "fine dining," but perfectly fine. Chicago from the outside, looking in.

And Avec rules.

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November 11, 2010

Eat Me, 750 mL Writing for Eater.com

I've wanted to use that headline forever. No, it's not about wine. But Eater Chicago editor Ari Bendersky's been kind enough to let me contribute a few pieces to his mecca food blog. And I said "food," not "foodie." It's what had me eagerly anticipating the launch of this site for the past two years--the timely info and fresh writing without any of that gourmand bullshit that goes along with so many other food sites. You'll see my posts trickle in throughout the day--starting a couple days ago and going on into the afternoon. I won't bore you with constant updates, but I hope you'll check them out. You can keep up by following me on Twitter @750_mL (note the stupid underscore). And, if you're not in Chicago, the rest of the site's got plenty for you, too. Afterall, what's all this wine without a little food? Well, it's a lot of awesome wine, but you get my point.

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November 04, 2010

So This is What Real People Sound Like

Congratulations to Mike P., who you may know from future guest spots on No Reservations or interviews on various foodie blogs, if he ever bothers to turn on a computer again. Mike's essay "Late Nights" recently brought home the motherload of all prizes: personal props from globetrotting savant Anthony Bourdain, who likely read, nodded to, and rubber stamped the piece as winner of the Medium Raw essay contest while boarding up his windows with some 2x4s and singing "Here She Comes Now" in Haiti. It's a short, humbling piece about the point of good food and one--as an entrant in the contest myself--I couldn't be happier won. As I read through the submissions over the past few weeks, they all seemed to fall into one of a handful of buckets: something unintelligibly foodie, the answer "why do anything anything well? because you can/we're blessed/why not?/you deserve it!," and here are some swear words I think Tony Bourdain would like. Late Nights--one of the shortest entries at only 300-some-odd words--was nestled in among those masses and, from reading it, I couldn't help but wonder where the hell Mike found out about this contest in the first place. Which is what made it so wonderfully genuine and, well, Bourdain. For all its sentiment (and, honestly, how can you not be sentimental when trying to answer a question like "why cook well?"), the essay had one thing more than any of the other nearly 2,000 entries did: honesty. In short, he loves his wife and his wife loves him. And so cooking obviously takes on a much larger meaning. Feeding is what Mike was talking about, and you can't help but think of a young Bourdain when reading this. That's why we like things like fried bologna, chicken tikka, pot roast, tamales, or, in Mike's case, rice and chicken. We don't eat these things--we're fed them. So Mike, if your routes ever take you through Chicago, get in touch. I'd love to pour you a beer. Go read his essay here. Or, better yet, wait a few months. It's coming out in paperback soon.

We occasionally accept sponsors at 750 mL, though they have no influence on the wines we choose to review. If it bothers you as a reader, please email me at 750mL.blogspot@gmail.com. I will personally read it and think this over some more. In the meantime: Receive 50% off shipping when you buy wine in quantities of 6 bottles or more with code "750m49"

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October 30, 2010

09 J. Christopher, Oregon Croft Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

The thing is, you have to listen to women. I'm learning that either the older I get, or the more sauvignon blanc I drink. The science says they have better nostrils, or tastebuds. The line is they're more likely to be "supertasters," sensitive to the nuances of bitter, sour, sweet, and salty. Then again, about a fourth of us are supertasters. And, odds are, this is the first time you've read the word "supertaster." Because it's not at all about the pointillist stroke of genes on your palate. You taste as well as you taste, and unless you waste time kooked up in white rooms with a separate glass and plate for every item of food and drink in your house, you don't know any different. And yet, it's true. Women do taste better. At least in this case, where my fiancee unwittingly picked up my glass and exclaimed, "Huia!" the wonderfully bright, minerally, and classic sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. I told her she was right. That this 2009 J. Christopher sauvignon blanc, from what I consider to be one of the best sites for this grape north of the equator, is indeed Huia. For me to understand what that means, I had to listen. Huia, for us (she and I specifically, not the royal blogger "us"), means much more than it would to others. It's the first wine we really got into together, she waiting outside the store while I hurried in, chatted up one of the associates, and came out with that bottle. I don't remember where we were hurrying to, or why she waited outside. But I remember that pungent, gooseberry-laden white that we've only had one other time since. So hearing her access that name from the deep recesses of her mind, I learned exactly why my married friends always say what they say. It's not about avoiding fights, picking your battles, or "trying to make things work." It's--odds are--that she's seen this somewhere before, already knows the answer. She's quiet, and when she talks, she's about to slap you silly. That's what it means to be a supertaster. Because, honestly, the new Croft is actually quite a different wine than Huia. But what it evokes--this sense of excitement, and maybe a little wonder, the sense of anticipation you get standing next to a hot girl who's still with you, the not knowing and not caring--that's what this wine tastes like. That's what makes it fit, like a memory you'll never know was real or cobbled together from a story your dad used to read you and a decade's worth of dreams. Jay thinks this is his best sauvignon blanc yet. I'm not so sure I agree, but I do think it's his most complex, driven by sharp aromatics, that unique feline pungency, pink grapefruit, pickled ginger, cantaloupe rind, bitter quinine, and a base of dry, eraser-dust minerality. The wine begs for food to smooth out some edges, though I do think that will mellow over the next few months. I remember first trying these wines years ago. Fruity and dull--the sort of recommendation you'd find in the back of some "learn to taste!" book or on the list of a nouveau Thai fusion joint beside the lemongrass pumpkin oysters. As the years have gone on, his wines too have started to come out a little more austere, maturing at pace with the increasing respect this grape has earned. Collectively, they're the only empirical study of what sauvignon blanc can do in the United States--UC Davis be damned. As if someone's been talking to him all these years. As if he's been listening.

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September 30, 2010

What it Means to Cook Food Well

Months late, I decided to enter Tony Bourdain's in-my-wildest-dreams writing contest. In short, he asked his dorky foodie readers to write an essay about what it means to "cook food well." There's a voting component--and almost 2000 entries--but I waited until less than 24 hours before the deadline to submit. So, I'm mostly SOL, but it was such a pleasure to write. When I was a kid, I used to say I wrote "for myself." Now I know what that means.

My ears clog when the weather changes, and family members die in the fall. The vision's pretty much gone by the time I'm 30. In a few more years, I'll replace the caramelized shallots on my hot dog with raw Spanish onion. It's here that people usually write, “it's been that way since as long as I can remember.” But for me it hasn't been—these eerily consistent, repetitive trends among me, my dad, that weird divorcee of some distant blood relative in Canada who kept sending Caramilk bars years after she stopped being invited to weddings. I've been tied to certain things, passions and likes that I thought I'd boiled up for myself. It's been that way since I was six, specifically since 11:40 first-session lunch on my first day of school when I got a nurse's summons followed by an afternoon of detention for vomiting my milk all over the lunchroom table.... >

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September 29, 2010

08 Brick House, Pinot Noir Ribbon Ridge Select

I left the wine business because we used to pull vines off the side of my house. Nobody'd asked. But we were bored, they went up three stories, and our 85-pound primary school bodies could pull them clean off. Twenty-five feet of solid vine. Like a fucking beanstalk. And vine after vine, all summer long, I have no idea which neighbor I was with. There was the Filipino one, five years older, probably a loser in school, who blew off his ring finger holding an M-80 that he'd asked me hold. There was the first black guy I met. There was an ugly girl who probably just placed fifth in America's Next Top Model. There wasn't an internet. And it took me three weeks to beat Zelda. Vines and busted fire hydrants, car alarms and Lemonheads were all we had. It's not just that that's how simple and pure and nostalgic this Brick House pinot is. It's that there was a smell to those vines against the chalky, red brick of my parents' first home and the bitter dandelion snow beneath us. I've been reading about how 2008 in Oregon might be one of "those" vintages. But I haven't been writing about it. Because that, of course, is the easy way out. To be honest with you, I have three vintages of Brick House in my cooler, and randomly grabbed this one without looking at the label. It's just as well. The way I thought maybe those vines would carry long into the sky, this pinot noir is a magical stalk to be climbed with hush and wonder. I wasn't landscaping for my allowance--I was pulling vines. And so I wasn't selling wines, I was trying to share some time with you. It's a classically Burgundian wine, meaning balanced and nuanced to the point of lineage. Its light, slightly sharp aroma gives to a wispy palate of black cherry skins, fennel gastrique, allspice, mukhwas, watermelon, tea, and white button mushrooms. All metaphor and history and lyricism aside, this is tremendously elegant, moving wine. I wish I were younger so it could be one of my first and help shape what I think about pinot noir. In that way, I consider it seminal, or at least elemental, built from the very roots of what it means--not to be "great" wine, but to be part of those precious few degrees of separation in Oregon, where the most humble of people make the most proud of wines. This is one of those wines. Not just a bottle, but a dot on the map. Spotted in ink. Bold and, we can hope, bleeding off onto its sides.


We occasionally accept sponsors at 750 mL, though they have no influence on the wines we choose to review. I'm mixed on this, and if it bothers you as a reader, please email me at 750mL.blogspot@gmail.com. I will personally read your email and think this over some more. In the meantime, along those lines: buy a half-case or more of French wine and get 50% off shipping with checkout code "750m24".

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September 21, 2010

NV Maurice Vesselle, Champagne Bouzy Grand Cru Rose

Gizmodo ran an interview today about the Large Hadron Collider, the world's biggest and highest-energy particle accelerator. And, in case you don't dabble in particle acceleration, it's not as though the one before this one was just a few feet long. No, to be the world's largest means being 17 miles around buried in the ground under Geneva. The fear? Well, maybe someone didn't check all the pipes. Maybe there's a chink. And the chink could swallow the entire world--or at least every crepe and peace treaty known to man. But that's not what Gizmodo asked about. Gizmodo asked the very practical question: What would happen if you stuck your hand in it? (That's what she said.) And instead of saying, "you die." Or laughing the guy out of the room. Some of the UK's top physicists actually tried to answer this. They were stumped. What does happen, when you have two virtually non-existent forces coming together at close to the speed of light, and a hand gets in the way? Which brings me to this wine. Collisions are common in Champagne, what with all the drinking, Citroens, and Peugeot bicyclettes. They do their wine the same way, front-ending chardonnay with pinot noir and pinot meunier, assaulting it with rapacious yeast, and then leaving it to die in a basement until a family member comes looking in the cold for something lost. This Maurice Vesselle, like an unusual proportion of Bouzy wines, is a tremorous, atomic event of opposing forces. I'm literally shaking. There are countless wines that taste better. Countless more that smell better. And about four regular non-vintage bottlings that both taste and smell better. From the moment the cork is pulled to the seventh and final glass, what you see here is nothing short of most vintners tete de cuvee. It shows a heady, bready, and--OK, I'll say it--Krug-like aroma. By which I mean it's both fruity and nuanced, rich with underlying aromas of mushrooms. The smell, the smell. Let's not mess around. This is the smell of premier cru red burgundy. I want to stress that last point. It's not reminiscent of pinot noir. It's not a kinda-sorta situation. It smells like off-vintage Eyrie Reserve (yep, that's Oregon, but if you read this blog, you understand what a compliment that is to France from me.) The taste is full of wild strawberries coated with orange blossom honey. Your friend across the room is laughing, watching Amelie, and for some reason holding a bouquet of tarragon. Before you leave, someone slips you a simple plate of pasta with black truffle oil. That's how we come together. High speed, deep, under pressure. Our tongues pressed against a shooting force of unknowing. Whether buried beneath the Swiss, where the quest for great Champagne arguably cemented itself, or here in urban America inside an industrialized glass bottle. Stick your hand in there. Let the protons shoot straight through your palm, your tongue. And ask yourself, at the end of the day, did you explode? Did you feel any pain? Or did you just stand there, your mouth agape, your eye stricken with awe hoping, somebody save me, asking what could possibly happen next?

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August 30, 2010

NV Segura Viudas, Cava Brut Reserva Sparkling Wine

There's nothing more I love about Cava than my ability to hate it on a whim. To taste a perfectly fine wine, look it up and down, see the rest of the party loving it, and then ruin it for everyone. It's how I identify these wines in blind tastings in fact: Tastes pretty good, crisp texture, very controlled sweetness, makes me want to hate. Cava. I can't justify it. But I keep drinking them because they humble me, and the Segura Viudas is no exception. On first taste, it's steely, almost cheap tasting. Until I realize that, unlike Veuve Clicquot which starts precisely the same way, the flavors that develop here are... smart. Unlike the brand's slightly higher-end, more modern-looking Aria sparkler, this wine makes no bones about what it is. It doesn't pull in any phony apple pie flavors. It's purely macabeo, parellada, xarel-lo. And, for those few of us who don't get off on reading Spanish wine fact sheets, well, that's pretty much what unoaked chardonnay tastes like. I love the tart quinine and lime zest and crushed lemongrass and dandelion greens, the sharpness against the herbs and flowers. I tend to drink sparkling wines on their own. I find them one of the world's purest pleasures--a cheat in the way that quinoa somehow managed to be a complete protein. But cava, and Segura Viudas in particular, thinks a bit beyond this. Of course, unlike my favorite Champagnes, this wine comes off a bit too lean. That's the point. You won't be happy if you're not eating. You have to drink, you always drink, and wines like this remind you to eat. Nutrition 101. No meat. No pudding.

From time to time, we accept sponsors at 750 mL, though they have no influence on the wines we choose to review. Along those lines, six+ bottles of Italian wine get 1/2 off shipping with promo code 750m94. I know, this post is about Spanish wine. I don't see the connection either, but they insisted.

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August 02, 2010

NV Aveleda, Portugal "Casal Garcia" Vinho Verde Rose

I started it in a wine glass. Then I moved it to a snifter. I poured that into a highball and then a 4-ounce beer glass. And finally I settled on this coffee mug because my Boston shaker's in the sink. This rose is just that disarming, to the point where I couldn't gild it with the concept of drinking wine. I'm just drinking. And today it happens to be a slightly frizzante, full, and spritely Portuguese rose. Sprite. Funny I say that, actually. Because what caught me first was how fruity this wine is--not at all the steely, raw, chalky, "green" rose I tend to drink from southern France. Yet, something seemed so familiar. I kept thinking "spritely"--maybe because it says "crisp and refreshing" on the label, maybe because I'm trying to switch up some of the language on this site. Then I looked closer... Aveleda written like the return address you'd hide under the sealed envelope flap when writing letters was cool. I'd seen their wines, guzzled a few at barbecues. In my town, at least, it happens to be the one decent summer bottle you can even find at 7-11 (and genius with hot dogs, by the way). I searched some more on Aveleda, found the most obnoxious review, "this tastes like Slice," he said. Oh, it's me--some quick note I wrote a few years ago on Aveleda's white Vinho Verde. No surprise then that today, on top of all these relatively complex flavors, all I end up tasting is Sprite. In truth, that lime soda quality's not really this winery's fault. It comes with the territory--Vinho Verde, near the border with Spain--where the blended Loureiro-, Azal-, Trajadura-, Arinto-, and Avesso-based wines are bottled early, keeping the alcohol low, the sugar a touch residual, and the bubbles trickling. Without the fermentation, it'd be a new flavor of Boylan's. (Note to self: contact Boylan's.) It's white raspberries and strawberries in July. The grenadine floating in a midmorning Monaco; you can almost hear the pomegranate seeds being tapped with the back of a knife. You don't call it wine any more than you need to say "H20" when you roll out of bed thirsty at 3am. You just go to the sink and pour a glass. It's a need that primal for me. These wines are often dismissed as non-descript. They're cheap as all get out. They have no real story. None were ever buried in a shipwreck and, if they were, they'd be brown and taste like sludge today. Thomas Jefferson didn't own these. Churchill didn't insist on a bottle of it with every meal. If you bring it to a fancy wine tasting, everyone will laugh at you. I'll laugh at you, too. These wines are just there. We don't need to talk about them, or blog about them... They're not like the folks you see on TV or follow on Twitter. Not like the ones fetishisised with posters on your ceiling, you someday hoping to jump or sing or vogue like them. It's the primer on the wall, the chassis in your car. It's like everyone you know. It's not what you covet; it's what you are.

1 Comments:

Blogger Lori said...

I serve this by the glass on my wine list. To me, it's all strawberries but nice and dry...slightly fizzy and perfect for summer!

1:10 AM  

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The Most Memorable Meal I Ever Forgot

"Rocky and Bullwinkle," and a defense of vegetarian wine drinkers (though I guess I should add many wines aren't technically vegetarian because of popular fining compounds... details...). Read it on The Awl. Also, from time to time, we accept sponsors at 750 mL, though they have no influence on the wines we choose to review. Along those lines, one of our sponsors this month is offering wine gift baskets and half-off shipping when you buy 6 or more bottles. Use code 750m61.

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July 19, 2010

NV L. Mawby, Leelanau Peninsula Sparkling Wine Brut Blanc de Blancs Methode Champenoise (Cuvee 140: April 2007/December 2009, Bottle 585 of 1122)

Sex. It's how I first got to know Lawrence Mawby. Young, inexperienced, and looking for something cheap, I turned to him--well, actually, his second-label M. Lawrence wines, which included the off-dry "Sex" rose. I was relatively new to the wine game, but had recently tried (through the generosity of relative strangers at the time) the 1990 Salon. Which meant, without dispute, that the rest of my life would be spent looking for sparkling wine that tasted like that (the odyssey continues). And while I wasn't quite sure why Champagne was so expensive, I knew I had to have it. (Again, sex seems to be the natural corollary.) What little money I could save those days wasn't going to anything else. And it sure wasn't going to "sparkling wine" from Michigan, no matter how far north, or how high in altitude, or how close it was to the latitude of Champagne. Michigan? They made football, cherries, and TP'ed my alma mater. Muck Fichigan. But on those nights where I had to bring a wine, as broke as I was, to dinner, Sex was in my price point. To most who'd never tried it, it wasn't very good, but no one's first time ever is. So I moved into his more typically dry "US" sparkling wine. I was hooked. Diversity between the rose and brut, decent flavors, I may never need prosecco again. Every now and then, I'd see the "L. Mawby" wines. Twenty-two, twenty-five, sometimes forty bucks. Yeah, right. As if. He'd convinced me with the relatively free samples, but they were no gateway. I would rather be sober. Those labels, though, talking about disgorgement dates, tirage, methode champenoise. I mean, how'd they even heard of these things in a UP town of 600 people? Well, what everyone carrying these wines knew that I didn't was that Mawby's been making wine for a long time. Sparkling wine, specifically, since 1984 under this label. I've come across them time and again, sipping glasses at wine bars in the Midwest, and at last I finally bit on a bottle. For as simple as it is, it grows on you. Sharp with ginger, a bit of pie crust, chalky city crabapple, and loads of smoky lime, the wine seems determined if nothing else. Weak, overall pretty boring, but also mysterious. I keep thinking to myself, is he doing this on purpose? Is this some sort of thesis on Michigan chardonnay? Do I buy her because she's wearing pearls--all the French and junk on the label--or do I call her younger sister with the run in her stockings? Well, the L. Mawby is of another breed. A forgettable part of some very historic lineage. And the M. Lawrence wines like Sex and US? They're shining examples of something much more common. So, I won't pick, except to say that during this entire review, I didn't mean to talk about the wine I didn't drink tonight, and yet I couldn't help myself. The ginger in this wine gets stronger on the finish. No surprise, really. I think, deep down, I've always been more Mary Ann.

1 Comments:

Anonymous John said...

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If not, thanks for the time and keep up the good work!

See You!!

4:31 AM  

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July 18, 2010

Starbucks on a Wine Blog?

Sorry if I've been here a little less. It happens in the summer. Try as I might, I find myself drinking growlers upon growlers of beer and by the time I get to opening the wine, I'm already a few in. And when I do start to feel guilty and put the focus back on wine, I drink a lot. No, not in that way. I mean, I tend to have a glass of this, a glass of that. I don't do as much of that "750" thing I do the rest of the year. I'm out with friends, dinner, etc. Who's got time to think about it, or even really be inspired. We're out, we're drinking, hooray. I could write about those wines--sure, I've always got plenty to say--but that's not fair. Every wine is "unctuous" and "holy crap that's amazing" when you're already a few in. Plenty of other blogs do that (ooo, burn) anyway. But, truth is, that's only part of it. The rest is that, dear readers, I've been moonlighting. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the guys at The Awl have been really great. It's a site I'd been following for a while, and I was really drawn to their mission statement. Something about publishing intelligent content, not just aggregating crap. Given that that was the only requirement, it still strikes me as odd that they liked my stuff, but so far, so good. Why such a long post about this? Because I'm trying to distract you before I say that Starbucks will make America a great(er) wine country. Read more about it at The Awl. And don't worry, I'm picking up some sparkling wines today. I'll be back.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Josh M. said...

I was SO happy to read your post about opening "growler after growler" during the summer. I'm the same way, and while I don't give up the vino, yeasty beverages just taste right during the hot and humid Midwestern summers. Take your libation vacation and don't worry too much about it.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous İzlediks said...

Nice Blog...
Pc Keyfi

3:37 PM  

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July 06, 2010

09 Villa des Anges, Vin de Pays d'Oc Rose Old Vines

What is that taste? Nitrates? Cured intestine? Lard? Don't run away just yet. You've not only had it, you love it. It's whatever's embedded deep in the soul of great salumi. Finocchiona, a personal favorite, but also just outside the spice of coppa, in the fat of San Daniele prosciutto, crunchy Reggiano, red pepper flakes--the fruity red flakes, not the white seeds--on a spinach pizza. It's the reason you eat this stuff instead of pork tenderloin. I don't know what happened here, but clearly something did. Something is dying. I guess, in some respects, it really just tastes like time. I'm not saying this cinsault-based wine is in rigor, but maybe the guy who made it is. It's salt. Not Morton's per se--not even the good kosher stuff. It's what salt does to food. What happens to chicken fat after it's rendered off a great bird (this is the best fat in the world, porcine fetishists be damned) crusted in the crystals. I'm telling you. That's almost wholly the definition of great rose--taking the color and force out of red wine and replacing it with... seasoning. That's precisely what's happening here. Who cares how good the fruit is? Pump in some CO2, and you might just have Bouzy on your hands. This isn't tremendous in the way that you'd bring it to a tasting with your winegeek friends. It's more edifying. When you drink it, it's how you might feel after winning an argument with your parents. See, it makes perfect sense that I come home after midnight as long as I'm sober enough in the morning to drive my sister to school. You're an adult now. You make your own choices. That's all that this wine asks of you. Don't look to the ratings. For godsake, put your flavor wheel next to the Rolodex in your recycling. And try to focus for a moment. Focus on the simple, but pure watermelon and strawberry sweetness in this wine. The slightly pink ones you buy two weeks before the farmers' market opens. The insides of those candies that didn't really taste like strawberry but came packaged in strawberry wrappers. That's exactly what this tastes like. Somebody kill a tuna. It's a purpose, a minerality, that only good rose has. Rose knows it's a food wine. It knows, unless you live near a pool or in Provence, to never position itself on its own merits. It's a wine of... possibility. One that graciously complements you, extends your party. Sure, I'll have one more if there's any shrimp left. It's the reason you can't stop eating Chinese food. The umami of cured pork and absolutely nothing else. The wonderment of why we're still here, in this bar, on a Tuesday well past bedtime. It's a way forward. An amuse bouche. Something that will never accurately be committed to words. And while this rose isn't the first to do it, it does do it and that makes it great. That's what keeps us smiling.

From time to time, we accept sponsors at 750 mL, though they have no influence on the wines we choose to review. Along those lines, one of our sponsors this month, is offering half-off shipping when you buy a half a case of wine. If you're interested, use the code juneone to buy wine online. I have no idea if this wine is sold there.

8 Comments:

Blogger Drew said...

Nice plug for Wine Chateau next to the ad from winechateau.com What's up with that?

1:04 AM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

They offered the readers a discount. Seemed worth passing on. The banner is a paid ad.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Drew said...

Mmmm, It's not that. It's seeing quid pro quo promotion. If, let's say, a London theme named store was to offer your readers discounts, would you promote them in turn? Is it just the shipping that rocks about this place? What does the store offer beyond that? Have you experience with them beyond that? I can think of one place that is superior in most regards, no? I thought the theme of the blog was about describing experiences with wine, good bad or otherwise. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. Not like I have a vested interest in the biz anymore. :)

9:15 AM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Are you kidding me? I'm not promoting anyone. I never said anything "rocks" about this place. They bought an ad, and I'm placing it. There's not a recommendation anywhere on this site to any retail store. When people ask me where to find wines I write about, I direct them to wine-searcher.com. This site is built on independence, and I think my readers understand that. There's nothing new about web banners and promo codes. It's how websites function, and no different from what you see in the paper or on TV. Except that I do less of it than pretty much everyone else in the industry, out of respect for my readership.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Michael Alberty said...

The way it was originally worded, appearing at the end of your wine review, it read to me like you were using the power of your blog to direct people toward the Wine Chateau in order to take advantage of an offer. I think Drew's question is a fair one. If another retailer, one who didn't purchase banner space, sent you a wine offer to share with your readership, would you publish it?

Now for a separate question and feel free to say it's none of my business. But what is the purpose of 750ml now? For me part of the beauty was that independence, a complete detachment from commercial interests. That and the turning phrases to capture the emotion of wine and moments. Once you start making reference in your actual blog to folks who are paying you for banner space, well, that line becomes blurred.

12:17 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Nothing's changed. As long as I can differentiate advertising from editorial, I'll be fine. The original wording in the blog post unintentionally came off as a bit promotional. What's different here, though, is that I took the time to change it. It's a good dialogue, though. I remember having a huge argument with the editor of a popular beer magazine several years ago because they were reviewing beers that had ad space on the very next page. It's a constant struggle. On one hand, sponsorship is simply the way of the web, and as this blog gets ready to launch a much-needed redesign to make it easier for readers to find things, well, I have to pay for server space. At the same time, publications like Wine Advocate are refreshing in how well they can go ahead with their mission completely self-financed. Look, I'm going to keep writing what I want to write, whether that's on this site or on the back of a napkin, even if it says Brawny on the other side. And every time we walk up to this line, I'll expect you all to keep me on my toes. Here, though, I think we're fine.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Michael Alberty said...

Fair enough. But what about Drew's question? If anybody from here on out sends you an offer to pass along to your readership, what will the policy be? All reasonable offers passed on or will it be strictly pay-for-play?

1:20 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

The bit in the post is part of the sponsorship package. So no, as a rule, I'm not giving out space to anybody who wants it. That's not pay to play. I don't recommend anything for money, even if I truly believe in it. That will continue to be the only policy here. But, when there's something particularly relevant, such as this--the only time I ever directly recommended a store--I will.

1:32 PM  

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June 26, 2010

Awl Right, Oh Yeah

750 mL is, well, just completely damn honored to share some space on one of the most pointed--popular--blogs out there: New York's The Awl, run by three Gawker veterans (magnates? magnets?) CS, AB, and DC. They were gracious enough to publish (and help edit) my newest post, "How to Face Down the Wine List and Win." A thrill in its own right, but made only better when I saw what an incredible community of readers they've got there--so don't miss the comments section.

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June 25, 2010

06 Movia, Sauvignon

"The intent of the meal is a slow event." We broke bread to that (well, head cheese). Some 50 of us gathered over two long tables, bottles of wine in tow. I'd literally towed mine, pedaling a Rube Goldberg setup of gear and chain across town, past an oddly situated UPS facility, and finally swinging through a winding country road, wine sloshing like rapids in the rear basket. Whatever it took, we were all going to get here. This farm dinner, this apotheosis of porcine proportions--a whole hog roast by one of our favorite chefs, here at one our favorite farms, the dank smell of humidity, goats, and rennet whisking across fennel fronds, redcurrants, and the saline drip of what was once my favorite shirt. Yes, this would be a slow event, just like Leslie said. Time enough to share in great food, meet others, and--as always--drink great wine. My bottles of some esoteric sparkling pinot and gelber muskateller came out. Others had brought delicious rose, shockingly good Australian whites, Bandol that somehow seemed refreshing in 90-degree heat. And, through all this--a memorable night in the least--I could think only of the futon I sat on last night. The bloat of Chinese food in my distended belly. A much quainter evening, all in all, capped with the denouement of this bottle of Movia. I could say it was majestic, moving, or metaphysical in situ. But where we were seated, who we were with, what we were or had eaten meant nothing to this wine. In a living room, on a farm. When I remember the night, I like to imagine us together at a teak, or maybe pounded copper, table, some innocuous plate of tapas or antipasti in front. But I don't need to. Because whenever this coy, nuanced--at the risk of sounding even more pretentious: "historically informed"--bottle is opened, you're no longer tied to your surroundings. The wine is where you are--as local and true as any gathering of old friends. You're never introduced to Movia. There is no awkward handshake, no learning curve. And if you're sitting there with a bottle right now, you know what it is. It's elemental in some way. You can't break down Mo. There is no tasting note. Sure, we can discuss the balance of acid and umami. Whether that musky aroma is really flint, lemon, or a stark, jarring reminder of being asked to wash the chalkboards for the last three months of kindergarten because your overachieving ass graduated early and there is no place to put a five-year-old kid on a Wednesday in the middle of a particularly frigid winter. We can discuss those things. Better if we don't. When I sat there on the farm, drinking bottle after bottle of delicious wine, eating course after course of thoughtfully raised and prepared food, I'd lost all my inhibitions. For a moment, I thought I should've brought that Movia I'd had the night before. Every glass I poured reminded me of it anyway. It's all I was really tasting. It would have wowed them. But I quickly woke to realize that's precisely the opposite of what wines like this want to do. They don't want to wow you. They don't want you to wow others. Somehow, they stay with you, revealing themselves not when you drink them, but far more viscerally when you are without, almost whispering, you will miss me when I'm gone. You taste them, you share your own little memories (when was the last time I'd thought about homeroom and Mrs. Cook?), and you go on with your day. Comforted, maybe, by the fact that, no matter where you are and what you become, everything you've done really happened. It's mattered. You will remember your days and remember them fondly. It really does get this good. And it's a secret you never have to share.

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June 11, 2010

NV Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Champagne Reims Brut

This is the review that won't matter. That won't come up in Google searches, won't be linked to from any major websites, except maybe blogs on Mark Twain. Because there are lies, damn lies, and mass-produced Champagne. And the numbers--some 10 million cases, 90 billion milliliters, or 760 million glasses a year--show that no half-truth is more persuasive than the power of Veuve Clicquot, the mystique of the Madame Widow Grande Dame. More timely, perhaps, that's 24 million gallons of this crude, gurgling liquid a year--or about as much as what BP just produced in the Gulf of Mexico. So, go on, be persuaded. But let me try to convince you otherwise, just this one time. I know, I know it's one of the first Champagnes you tried and then you went to fancy cocktail parties and still it was there. You had mimosas on the Riviera with it. You toasted your niece's wedding with it. The dockmaster christened your first yacht with a bottle, a ribbon, and some novelty scissors. And then just the other night you watched MTV Cribs and it was there, too, being brought up from the basement by an actual servant. All this wasn't just for show--it actually validated your thinking. Not "thinking" really, but your understanding. Well, no, not that. Your pedigree, your upbringing--your auspices. And I guess that's why--really to all our loss--Champagne is such a celebratory wine instead of the daily, I-love-myself and it's-Happy-Hour wine it really is. Because with wines like Veuve Clicquot's standard brut, you need a reason to open it. To expose yourself to flavors as faintly memorable as the people around you. The in-laws you only see on Easter. The hip Division Head who thinks everyone in the organization is of equal value before going to his summer home in the Andes. They taste this steely, like the aluminum wrapper of a lemon-poppyseed cupcake on your molars. As sweet and flabby as the girl who broke up with you the second week of summer camp. As bitter and zesty as quinine, as the gin tonics you guzzle at the cash bar, plunging your tongue past the ice, thinking who the hell are all these people. And though noticeably better, with enough heady, bold mushroom and raspberry aroma to, for just a moment, make you think the French were really on to something, you can drink the basic Veuve and see exactly where so many cheap sparkling producers get their influence. The Andre, the Cristalino, the Martini & Rossi. They all come from this. And they suck ass because I think the people who work there must get Veuve Clicquot at their holiday parties, on their yearly bonuses. Maybe it's the first result on Google. Here's the good stuff, boys! Guzzle up. Throw a fucking strawberry in there while you're at it. Well go ahead. Throw a strawberry in there. Make a fucking white sangria with some punch. Bitch, top off your bellini. But quit lying to me. Serve this, but quit telling me it's good. Quit telling me it goes with everything, including sushi. Quit putting it in a four-ply tri-fold cardboard box with a free etched Champagne flute. And, while you're at it, quit calling it Champagne. But keep calling it brute.

28 Comments:

Anonymous Sandeep said...

amen

10:50 PM  
OpenID saignee said...

Awesome.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Steve-n-Melissa said...

After reading this post, I'm putting this blog on my favorites list.

1:05 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

:) You guys are awesome. With so many people seeing this post, I should say for the record--if you have the chance, do actively seek out the La Grande Dame, Veuve Clicquot's tete-de-cuvee.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Jim C. said...

I dumped VC Yellow from the shelves at the wine store I run this year after finally getting tired of hearing "you have to have it" and "it sells itself." As far as I was concerned, it was taking thunder away from great wines.

And, I have to wonder if even La Grande Dame isn't what it used to be based on how mature the 96 tastes now.

12:50 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Wow, Jim. That's definitely the first I've heard that. I used to (a few years ago) work retail and, while I proudly hand sold every grower Champagne we had with quite a lot of success and was very fortunate to be managed and mentored by a few bleeding hearts, we just left the cases of Yellow in the fridge.

People come in, ask, here you go. Especially with full cases (especially on Easter), which for most Champagne, people are reluctant to buy. End of day, it helped us support carrying the other stuff. And, if people are drinking Champagne, I'm happy.

But eventually cava and prosecco, plus some 30-and-under Champagnes got so good, that it became easier to sell those over VC, as long as you had a good associate on the floor.

All that said, really bold of you to take this leap. I compare it to the craft beer bars. A few years ago, you had to carry Miller Lite, etc., because it brought money in. But once bars started shifting to all-craft beer, it didn't take long for people to start drinking the smaller batch, local pilsners and cream ales.

Where are you based?

2:35 PM  
Blogger Samantha Dugan said...

We dumped Clicquot years ago along with Taittinger, and Moet, the stuff is crap and I cannot and will not stock it anymore. There was a bit of a "say what?" response from customers in the beginning but telling them they can find it at Food For Less and CVS kind of lets them know just how, "special" that stuff is. The result has been higher sales in our Champagne department, you know once people taste what it should taste like.

3:58 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

This is eye-opening. What other retailers have been so brave? Let us hear your voices.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wine reviewers need this kind of vitriol more often. I'd love to see this on a "shelf talker." Good stuff!

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have NEVER sold VC in the 18 years we have been known as Los Angeles' Champagne Headquarters. We have a banner we put in the window at holidays that says "Friends don't let Friends drink Veuve Clicquot!".

Roberto @ WINE EXPO Santa Monica, CA

6:26 PM  
Anonymous Roberto Rogness said...

Here is a link to a picture of our window banner:

http://www.wineberserkers.com/viewtopic.php?p=326895#p326895

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Sandeep said...

So I had to make this decision not to long ago, and I decided to keep them, they do sell themselves I in fact had a shelf talker that said something to the effect of 'these are here if you must but I would recommend every other sparkler on these shleves' I have since then taken that sign down. More and more I realize people should drink what makes them happy and I shouldn't pass judgement of that, wine is intimidating as it is.

For me personally I dont drink it and I agree with every last sentence in the above article, but would I turn it down if offered a glass I highly doubt it. And I dont go chiding people for buying overpriced designers clothes when they should go to a tailor and buy bespoke, or for buying the porche panamera when they should buy an aston martin vantage, or a rolex over patek phillipe.

And by the same token, if i were to stop offering Yellow Label I would feel equally responsible to stop carrying most California wines because the Northeast and Europe just do it better in my esteem...

Lastly, I think its great to have that to compare and contrast for the customers what it means to have a sense of place and the quality of vineyard sites. And at the end of the day that yellow is as fashionable as a tiffany's box, and thats what the widow did for champagne she made it fashionable in Russia and then all over the world. And it has risen to its status in the US on the backs of some serious sales people.

And every time we geek out on Methode Ancestrale, most recently this seems to be puro, or we wax poetic about the dangers of the remueur we pay homage to yellow label...

So I feel I do my customers no disservice by offering Yellow Label, I will continue to tell the gospel of grower and coop but I wont make somebody feel bad for not knowing better, thats not their fault so much as mine...

This has turned into more of a diatribe than I expected... with all that said. Nilay you always say it with the right words that i never seem to find, keep fighting the good fight. Vive le resistance!

6:44 PM  
Anonymous Jill said...

I am an LA-based retailer and have never carried yellow label, but keep a little bit of the 98 Grande Dame on hand, and occasionally a gold label vintage Brut or Rosé.

I don't carry yellow label primarily because I don't like it; but, also, from a practical standpoint, as a small store, I can't compete on price -- my wholesale cost is $37 a bottle, and Trader Joe's (and CVS as Samantha noted) sells it for $40 a bottle.

Most customers understand these points when they are explained, and appreciate both my focus on growers as well as the price issue.

However, I know I have lost sales because I don't stock Yellow Label. For sure.

I have been told point blank by customers that "if it were just for me, I'd buy what you recommend. But I don't feel comfortable giving a gift if the recipient might not recognize the brand."

Oh well. In those cases, that's why I have the Grande Dame around.

6:59 PM  
Blogger jon said...

Well said! I'll raise my glass of Farmer's Fizz to this...

8:01 PM  
Anonymous John K said...

Thank you for writing this.

12:02 AM  
Anonymous Wine-o said...

F*** YEAH! I could not agree more. When in retail I also had the yellow around in case someone needed to have it, but only after spending at least five minutes extolling the virtues of farmer fizz wouold I allow them to pay for the Agent Orange.

I think the comments here touch on whether to have it, and not what the original meaning of the post was: If you need to sell it or even want to sell it- fine. But don't give me this "It's a wonderful and unique champagne from the very finest vineyards in the most prestigious region on earth" crap. McDonald's would never try to convince the world they are gourmet, so why do we swallow this load of bull from LVMH? Clearly there is nothing unique about 10 million cases a year, nor is there any note of prestige in the ridiculous amount of vineyard land requires for such a massive sum. Think about that the next time you spend the almost two hours driving at 70mph from Reims to the Aube where a majority of their grapes come from.

People shop at WalMart because of the prices and convenience, why do we allow ourselves to continue to think this product is any different?

My biggest beef is during the holidays when so many people just HAVE to have VC to give as a gift because they NEED the recipient of said gift to KNOW they spent $50 on them. If you truly cared about this person wouldn't you give them the greatest product available for the same amount of money? Wise up people.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Tricerapops said...

this was fun to read. bravo.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Roberto Rogness said...

Re giving a "known label" as a gift: that is SO 20th Century. Now anyone (or their people if they are too important) can google anything they want ON THEIR PHONES and see the glowing reviews and rarity of a more interesting wine sent as a gift.

11:15 AM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Enlightening and inspiring, Sandeep and Jill. And Wine-o, yeah exactly. I'd never say you shouldn't drink something, but it's powerful to hear these things from the retailers.

11:43 AM  
Blogger emc said...

I still lose my lunch when I see restaurants charge $20 a glass for it. Without a lap dance, that's just insanity.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

I'm sure grass fed Angus beef producers wish they had the sales and bank of MacDonalds... But at the end of the day it's grass fed Angus and an effing Big Mac.

Each has it's baggage, limited production and quality on one hand, consistently above average brand recognition on the other. Deep has the thread of it.

I'm happy to see so much flag waving for the cause, but I hope people will choose to be part of the world of wine over feeling like they are out of their depth. The more I taste after thousands of wines is more and more like I know so little.

But all my chips on the table, I will fall down on Nilay's side; 55%/45% as it were. While I wouldn't spit it out if offered, and likely I would miss it blind, Methinks the lady doth protest too much. The notes are on and the hard-sell every Veuve rep ever laid on me has left me permanently cold to the brand.

11:05 PM  
Anonymous John Grochau said...

Never liked it... sweet and uninteresting.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How old are you, must ever other word be a curse. No wonder you're doing this for free.

3:51 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Only young people curse. Fucking kids these days. How's this: Flaccid, yet erudite. 86 points.

I do this for free because I love wine.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Chris Kissack said...

NV Veuve. It used to be good, y'know. I remember that time.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Wineandfootball said...

You are my new god. Seriously, I'm shaving my head, donning saffron coloured robes and heading to the nearest airport straight away. I'll be handing out copies of this post: "Excuse me Sir, would you like to some of our literature"?

1:20 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

I hope to set up an encampment shortly right outside of Bouzy. I'll send you the belemnite prayer beads in the next few days.

1:24 PM  
Blogger James said...

from the Cafe Matou Winelist: Jean Lallement’s wines symbolize everything I love about Champagne. With a total annual production of 1700 cases (compared to Veuve Cliquot’s annual production of nearly 833,000 cases – yeah, really) he creates stunning wine from the Grand Cru vineyards of Verzenay. It is made of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay and has a broad racy palate with aromas of brown butter and candied dates – it is powerful and intense all the way through an amazingly long finish

10:40 AM  

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May 19, 2010

08 King Estate, Oregon "Acrobat" Pinot Gris

They just won't grow up. From what I saw, they looked pretty well matured in Portland. Corduroys, Sperry boat shoes, Jesus Lizard t-shirts, Starbucks, and briefcases. I mean, man, everyone I met out there had it together. I even came across a winemaker hosting a tasting of 12 wines for four people in khakis and a buttondown. I would've worn Hanes and a headband. Another one talking wine while he signed for some official-looking UPS package. Joked it was from the government, and then it was. The guy at the Italian grocery hacked a kidney from a whole hog while wearing a tie. I'm telling you. Oregon has got it together. But something happens when you go out back. Yeah, through Lake Oswego (thanks, by the way, for keeping all these wineries in business), Tualatin, Corvalis--but keep on keepin' on. Until you get there. You know. Where the sun sets differently. Until you get out to Eugene. Where, I assume, the corduroy is handmade by Pearl Jam (yeah, that's Seattle by way of Evanston, Il, but bear with me), the pork kidneys grow wild beside the ramps along the highway, and, well, everyone still goes to Starbucks. They don't wear pants out here--not if this wine has anything to say. Because you take this pinot gris and easily dress it up with the macquillage--stick some cufflinks on an already overpriced suit. Put the granny pearls on the neckline of that Chanel dress. It's been done everywhere to great success. Take your decent, yeah just pretty good, white grapes. Squeeze 'em. Ferment 'em. And lacquer them in oak. Oh, delicious oak. Some of you guys might know--I make my living in marketing. Have for years. And the marketing hat tells me that's what King Estate should've done (for body, instead, it's aged on its natural yeast for almost half a year). Yeah, I'd write the wine up to shit then, if I wrote about it at all, but these guys would've made a fortune. The rich pear and kiwi, the just-tolerable quinine acidity, that faintly memorable, bar-friendly classic "pinot grigio" taste needs nothing more than some body to it to be a blockbuster. If you really want to know what I mean, try Bergstrom's horrific version. It turns the pear to pineapple and shrouds the whole thing in armor. I would rather drink your underarms. King Estate won't grow up. Won't realize this is a progressive industry. Won't let the market speak. Come on, we're all supposed to taste the same. Consistent quality, right? People don't order "Oregon pinot gris." They order "white wine." So, just make a white wine, guys. Something that goes with both chicken, salad. And cake. No, they won't though. The simple, naive, hippy-dippy Oregonians. I guess they'll stick to their guns. Insist on proving my point that no matter how much great pinot noir Oregon makes (and trust me, it's more than any of us even know), its whites are the pride of God's Country. I think King Estate gets that. That whatever flips and turns it makes are just to reveal what's really inside. To show us the sinew of terroir sticking through the curve of every barrel. And, at the end of the day, keep it easy. Keep it forgiving. Keep it appreciative of our time. Wines this simple are child's play. And they make me want to be a kid again. The way a child, as smart as it may be, will still look at you with longing and hope. Understand me. If you can, even, hold me. Turn on the music and read to me. I'm here, I'm a complex tangle of nerves, and yet all I can think about is you.

2 Comments:

Blogger philanderson said...

I'm not quite sure, but I'm thinking you may not have liked this Champagne too much? Just a thought. Speaking of a thought I will be meeting you this week at the WBC and on the excursion heading from Seattle to Walla Walla. Look forward to it!

Phil Anderson
General Wine Thoughts

1:37 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Hey Phil, I've got to assume you're talking about the VC post above this, because I thought the King Estate was fantastic. Thanks for the note. Wish I could catch you in Walla, but sadly I won't be able to make it this year.

2:25 PM  

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May 18, 2010

In the Scheme of Life, We're All Just Brothers

Never thought I'd find myself quoting The Offspring on this blog, but so it goes. We've got a small, but dedicated readership. One I wish I were closer to at times. Because I read the emails and comments you send over, I read your Tweets, and you all seem like a crowd I could sit down and shoot the shit with over a few drinks. It looks like now I might have that chance. I'm happy to announce that 750 mL is one of a small handful of winners in the WBC-or-Bust: Road to Walla Walla competition for Best Washington Wine or Tasting Note. From what I've gathered so far, we've won for either of our posts on the 2005 Betz Besoleil, an incredible Columbia Valley grenache that starts to suggest maybe the PacNW is more like Spain than anywhere else, and the 2006 L'Ecole No. 41 Merlot, which I pull out any time anyone says anything about France or Napa. Pretty fly.

1 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

Congrats 750! I'm fully onboard with WA as a great place for Grenacha, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tempranillo.

U.S. answer to Spain and the Rhone Valley.

Look forward to meeting you at WBC'10.

10:11 AM  

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April 13, 2010

08 O'Reilly's, Columbia Valley Pinot Gris

It's time like these that you can't depend on me. Because I'm going to tell you this is, so far, David's best pinot gris. But that doesn't really mean much of anything. Not without knowing the 2008 vintage on the ground, which I've just barely researched and hardly tasted in Columbia Valley. So I don't have that. But I do have taste memory. A virtual record, if that'll pass, of the past several bottlings. And this is among the least flavorful. But I guess that's my point. That when the Pacific Northwest really shines, it shows off its terroir. Yeah, that's a French word. And what I mean is that it stops worrying about oak. Or vintner alchemy. And instead says here's our wine. There's a recession. I've got a meeting with my financial advisor. In the meantime, I fixed myself a drink. And, like a still mix of St. Germaine and prosecco, out comes the new puppy dog pinot gris. With the floral, slightly steely aromatics of a lowend Rhone roussane and the chalky, peachy, babyfat palate of Chablis and Bordeaux blanc, it's a story of contrasts. Much like the harmonious "field blends" of this general region, the 08 gris is at once dynamic and dull. Not in flavor, but in character, a carbon copy of most French muscadet. And, in that vein, even vinho verde. Yes, shitty vinho verde. By which I mean a compliment. Like all not truly great but immensely pleasurable wine, it's meant to be had in multitude. At absolutely any time. Without being watery. Or too acidic. Or alcoholic. But instead being a 3-contrast filter on a picture of the spring. You enjoy this. You don't think of Alsace or, for godsake, California. I, but you, don't think of Rhone. You think of what it might be like to quit your job. To jump in that car like you said you would and drive. Drive to the coast. Lose the iPhone and put on the tapes. Watch the sunrise, sunset, and sunrise again--all in the same day.

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March 28, 2010

NV Pierre Peters, Champagne Le Mesnil-sur-Oger Rose for Albane

This is where bias comes in handy. Without one, this review is simple: don't buy this wine. You know I hate talking about prices, but I know from working in retail and pairing wines for several years what people expect for their money. This isn't it. It's not elegant. Not inspiring. It probably won't get you laid... ladies. Yet, Pierre Peters is quite easily one of the very best Champagne producers on the market today. I don't know anyone who would put their chips in against that bet. Dollar for dollar, their 100% chardonnay Champagne--as pricey as it is--is a value. And, somehow, it's exactly the opposite of this rose. Trade white for pink--okay, that much is obvious. But also barter the sweet, regal aromatics of the blanc de blancs for something sharp, steely, phenolic. And swap the clean, mountain air palate for something that feels more like the rocks at the bottom of the hill. Downstream from a zinc mill. But bias gets me through. Reminds me how much care and finesse goes into every bottling. It makes me wonder just how wild the grapes for this rose were. Some maybe overripe. Some a little green. So confusing that the house yeast hardly knew what to do. Not fermented, subdued. If you ever can taste it, the fruit's actually beautiful. Don't get me wrong. This is one bold, deeply flavorful wine that I'd use just like I'd use any still pinot meunier--maybe with some sockeye salmon, but really best with country ham or beef sashimi (David Burke, are you listening?). It's yet another sparkling that speaks to the problem with "non-vintage" wines. Not that they're any less--but that the labeling's not clear enough. While many have a short shelf-life, others, like this Peters, need some time to age. But without a bottling date, we have no idea how long, or if they've aged already. And, sadly, this one's just not there yet. But yours might be. And, yes, I'm wondering the same thing. Who the hell is Albane? An old friend, I'm sure. A loved, but rarely seen one. Caring, but perhaps too busy to talk to for too long. Cher, Albane. Arretes. Calme-toi. Il y a tant de temps. We've got so long to go.

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March 19, 2010

A Few Seconds of Greatness

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is the bottle under water?

12:56 AM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

The Puro is sold undisgorged, which means the yeast is still in the bottle. It's sold upside down so the yeast collects in the neck. By opening it under water, you give a place for the yeast to cleanly shoot out into, while the pressure of the water prevents too much clean champagne from shooting out. You could do it without the water, but it would be pretty messy.

7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, thanks for explaining that.

10:19 PM  

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March 15, 2010

NV Krug, Champagne Reims Brut Grand Cuvee

When they say the stuff that dreams are made of--I get it now. It's not some overreaching cliche reserved only for the likes of Sam Spade. I was blinded this wine for the first time last night (no one I know would ever blind Krug; we generally open it under spotlight while screaming yeah, it's KRUG mothafuckas!) and all I could think of it as was fantasy. Sure, looking back, it was obviously Krug (my guess got as far as a young Reims with "something very unusual going on"). The second we revealed the bottle, I got tornadic wafts of toasted dried mushroom from the heavy dose of pinot meunier (indeed unusual). The giant smoky sourdough, creme anglaise, and strawberry biscuit aroma finally made sense--the unique barrel fermentation and lees age that Krug receives. And sure, all that lunging acidity was the blend of young wine that every NV Krug (more appropriately labeled multivintage) is built on. But that's after seeing the bottle. Really knowing Krug is to not know it's Krug. Here's a wine I've been lucky enough to have several times--one that as far as my interest in Champagne goes is supposed to be a benchmark. Yet looking back on all my prior encounters, I only remember it as delicious. Sometimes even elegant (which Krug is decidedly not). And that's because I knew it was Krug. I came wearing my tux to meet the aristocracy. But last night. Last night was running into the princess at the IGA. Something about you draws me in. I'd like to get to know you better. Even next to the frozen peas. There's the wonder of this wine. Without its label, without its pretense, without knowing its cost, it's indeed a better, more awe-inspiring wine. An imaginative, impressionist Champagne. Cezanne corked and under pressure. If you made a wine in your mind, half asleep, imagining six impossibilities before breakfast, this just might coerce itself into existence right after animals can talk. It's wunderlust. It's fugue. It's magic without knowing there are secrets in this world. And proof that sometimes you have to close your eyes to know what stands in front of you. But for us dreamers, take a breath, purse your lips, and dare to be surprised. Yeah, it's Krug mothafuckas. Thank you, Danielle.

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March 03, 2010

08 J. Christopher, Oregon Croft Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

I got a sage piece of advice the other day from a fellow wine writer: don't be afraid to make enemies. Be as honest and objective as you can--I guess the rest will basically take care of itself. And I am. But the longer you do this, the more people you inevitably get to know, and your biases bloom like mold in April. I find myself refusing samples. Or taking them with the caveat that I'll only ever write about them if I get enough friends together to do a brown-bagged blind tasting. At some point, it becomes impossible. Fortunately, I don't know these guys. And I hope they don't read this. You're going to make enemies and you're going to have to forge ahead. I couldn't care less. And I'm at an advantage because I'm rarely recommending or cautioning any wine. You have no idea how much I appreciate that any winemaker would bother to do this. It's not their jobs to impress us. It's our work to find a reason for most of these wines. A ball to wear that gown to. The problem is, I'm starting to look good in a dress. Nevermind, I mean I'm starting to make friends. That might be why I've been so reluctant to write about this Croft Vineyard sauvignon blanc, which I first tried in the 2001 vintage and fell in love with a few months into the 2004. That's when I made it my house wine. But four years later, as more of us become neighbors in this business--and I'm honored to share a fence with any of you--the house has gotten bigger, and if we all had to meet somewhere, some amalgamation of all our favorite bars with Chefs Paul Kahan (or anyone he gives his nametag to) and Dan Mondock out back, this is what we're drinking once everyone gets inside. J. Christopher's 2008 Croft Vineyard sauvignon blanc is America's house wine. Take off your socks and put on your PJs. I've had it every week this year. Where I like to wax eloquently about the ether of old white Bordeaux, the Sudoku-like mindfuck of Loire, or the explicitly Cinemax-like pleasure of all Champagne, Croft makes me just want to keep my mouth shut. I don't want to make this winery happy. Don't want to run into them at a tasting and say, yeah, hey, it's my pleasure, but you're the one doing the work! I don't want to be full of myself. And time will tell if I delete this post. Make it something short and sweet about the Kaffir lime, smoky Silex (!) minerality (okay, now I've gone too far, it's not as ethereal, but at least far better than every New Zealand wine), gooseberry, raw quince, grapefruit, grapefruit, and grapefruit. So maybe it says something that I can't. That I can't shut up. That all I want to do is open a bottle, pour a few glasses, make a few new friends.

1 Comments:

Blogger so hot said...

成功是一把梯子,雙手插在口袋裡是爬不上去的。........................................

8:29 PM  

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March 01, 2010

07 Darien, Rioja Rosado

I've never asked, but I'd guess confidently that most of my favorite winemakers at some point in their lives fell in love with a bottle of rose. At least that's what a wine like this Darien makes me think. Its citrusy berry ripeness--something like a kumquat mixed with Meyer lemon peel, white raspberries, strawberries, and nectarine--has the power to put you in a place you've never been and make you think you always belonged. If this were my first wine, I would've dropped out of school and spent my scholarship on a vineyard. On a practical level, the balance of acid, fleur-de-sel-like minerality, and sweet, round fruit means that the Darien can go with just about everything (though particularly onions, especially dark green scallion tops, normally reserved for compost, tossed with coarse salt and ground pink peppercorns). But you read the other sites for practical. What I taste is terroir. By which I don't mean the slight spiciness of 100% tempranillo. I don't mean the ripe fullness of Rioja (at its core, from producers who limit their oak, who I admit are increasingly difficult to find). By terroir in Rioja, I mean territory. This is a wine that defends its space, confident as a pit bull backed up against a wall. I won't hurt you, but if you Google me, you'll see the many ways that I could fuck you up. And it doesn't. It's a sweet dog inside. You just know that if there were a touch more acid, lingering tannin, strange oak, an odd amount of alcohol, a confusing addition of old vine garnacha--it could clamp down on your taste buds and never let go. Darien takes the nobler route. The sensitive seduction. A tryst in some alley with a French girl behind the dirty pintxos joint in Basque country that no one will ever ask you about. (We were there on study abroad, both had an interest in Suarez.) Quick, let's finish this wine, so we can order another. There are mussels coming. And if anyone gets in our way, we'll pull out our elbows. If there's a fight tonight, it's for the greater good. Your adrenal sweat will season these langoustines. The air is heavy. I belong here. I wish I could make my own wine and give it to you. But if not, I'd like just to be something you've never brought to your lips before.

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February 25, 2010

What We're Doing with Your Wine Samples

Nobody invites me to dinner anymore, but my local crafts store is beaming. Until last October, I didn't know people actually made "wine bottle lamp kits," but as soon as I discovered it, I realized that the many generous distributors, winemakers, and PR-professionals ("Hey, we *love* your blog and would *be honored* to send you a free sample of our most *prestigious* wines!") were killing two birds with one stone. I will never be without beef burgundy, coq au vin, or a quick dinner gift for my neighbor's bi-monthly, we're-accepting-that-we're-30 "gatherings." Industry, you've turned me into a re-gifter. And I guess lamps are better than a cinammon babka. But your highly allocated single block South Latvian A9 clone cab (aged six months in French oak only, of course) has become my labelmaker. Hello, my name is Tim Whatley. I made this for you out of garbage. Sometimes it's a lamp. Sometimes I'll bring the wine itself. Especially the Kosher wines, which make me look considerably more expert and thoughtful than anything I would've picked up on my own at the liquor store. Welcome to the secret life of wine blogger samples. I thought it fair to finally tell you, we hardly ever drink what you send us. We want it--oh we absolutely want your free wine. But we probably won't write about it. Ethics aside, the truth is I'm almost never in the mindset to criticize a free bottle. Much of what I like about wine is choosing the bottle for myself. Sifting through the 20-page-too-long (i.e. 21-page) wine list to find a bottle of Rasteau you know isn't marked up beyond standard retail. Asking a store clerk for some help--only to realize he's clearly shilling a quota wine--and immediately picking up the bottle next to his recommendation just to crap on his commission (try helping me find what I really need next time). If there is one absolute truth amongst us bloggers, it's that we really enjoy what we do. We enjoy wine as much as waking up in the morning. We feel the same about food. Our sustenance is a wanting for everything to be an "experience." It's how we get away with so often making close to no sense. A hundred, 10,000, eight. The pageviews will vary, and I genuinely don't care. I don't have a boss. I'm not on a "roadmap to excellence." I don't have to get better or worse. There is no masthead. I'm allowed to be biased. I can change my mind. And I can sit in the dark with my feet up listening to Cold Cave and drinking your wine with a Domino's pizza and cookies. Cut-out cookies I rolled myself, mind you, with an empty bottle of that cab (for finer pastries like croissants or dough that has to be rolled individually like flatbread and kolaches, I prefer the precision of a riesling or Trimbach pinot gris). But, like any gift no matter how bad, I do remember each one of these. And if it's the thought that counts, I count a new friend every time the doorman leaves a tag on my box and I find a small shipper of wines from someone I've never met. I take care to let them settle for a few days. I store them in my Eurocave. And the next time I'm at my local wine shop, I'll perk up if I see your bottle on the shelf. If it's any good, I'll buy some. I'm not a critic; I write about wine, which is really just a symptom of needing to talk about it too much. I don't have a point system. I'm not a judge. Trust that your samples are, however, going to a good place. That they litter my living room, scattering the moonlight that trickles in between the blinds. That they're in my periphery every time I write a new post. A part of everything I do. And if it never helps you sell a bottle, know at least that you've sold me.

2 Comments:

Blogger John said...

Great post. The more posts I read from "sampled out" bloggers makes me realize we probably shouldn't start a bunch of samples hoping for a good review.
www.terrasavia.blogspot.com

4:27 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Thanks. I think. Bloggers have a lot to contribute to the wine discussion. The real point is that you shouldn't send samples to anybody "hoping for a good review"--whether it's me or Robert Parker. You should send them because you believe in your wine. When you send a sample to 750 mL, you send it to 750 mL, not to my friends, not to my readers. And if it's good and if it inspires, I'm sure I'll say something about it to someone.

4:57 PM  

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