Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wine Geek Gift Guidelines - Best We've Seen

We get this question numerous times every year and this time we found a really helpful article by Helen Smeaton, entitled, Wine Gifts for Wine Lovers, Cheap or Expensive in Old World Wine is owned

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bootique Boojealais in a Goblinet

Ghost Hunter’s Guide to California’s Wine Country

Yes, only yours truly could dig up (sic) a great wine related gift with a Halloween theme. Not covered in the guide, however, is the locally famous haunted cemetery out on Adelaide Road in Paso Robles Wine Country.

This ghostly guide by Jeff Dwyer, takes readers to the rolling hills, old wineries, and beautiful vineyards of the California wine country. With more than eighty haunted locations described in great historical detail, experienced and novice ghost hunters alike can search this famous region for encounters with ghosts of explorers, Indians, soldiers, and others.

Recommended locations include the famous novelist Jack London’s homestead, where many believe London’s ghost still haunts his beloved ranch. After traveling the vineyards and wineries, the counties of Napa and Sonoma offer more ghostly adventures.

The Cinedome Movie House in Napa is said to hold the ghosts of an older couple who were often found cuddling in the back of the theatre.

In Sonoma, hauntings have occurred in the popular park known as the Plaza. Sem-Yeto, one of the last Pomo Indian chiefs, is buried in the park’s northwest corner, and some have witnessed the spirit of his ghost wandering the site.

About the Author: A paranormal investigator and expert ghost hunter, Jeff Dwyer researches ghostly phenomena using highly developed psychic methods that include clairvoyance, remote viewing, and psychometry. He lives in Fairfield, California.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Calling All Cork Dorks

"Cork dorks," is a term of endearment for all lovable enogeeks.
The name of this software, however, first caught my eye because of it's similarity to Vinoteca, one of Paso Robles' favorite wine bars and gathering spots.

Vinotekasoft (www.vinotekasoft.com ) has unveiled a new version of Vinoteka, Vinoteka 1.2.2, the ultimate wine cellar management software for Mac.
In a unique and gorgeous interface showing bottles, cellars and tasting notes, Vinoteka brings the best wine cellar management experience to Mac users.

Extremely easy and fun to use, Vinoteka offers a fantastic and realistic environment to manage your references, your bottles (wine, liquors or spirits), recreate your cellar, save your tasting notes and add your own food and wine pairings.

The new features provide autofilling of some reference fields, and, overall, the most advanced technology in computer aided wine management. Customizable and user-friendly and thoroughly professional; Vinoteka is billed as, "the ultimate companion every wine lover needs."

Vinoteka is based on the latest Mac OS X Leopard OS and packs a full house of high-performance and innovation.

Features & Enhancements

FEAT: Mac OS X 10.6 (aka Snow Leopard) support.
FEAT: New CrashReporter (CMCrashReporter).
FEAT: New filter field in the not racked bottles view.

Minimum Requirements:
Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard or higher

Single user license: $34.90

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Top 10 Whispered Wine Words

The terms used in the luscious lexicon of wine tasting are oft lampooned by philistines. So it may come as a surprise to many how practical and down-to-earth the most used terms are (as culled from tens of thousands of postings on the eBacchus blog).
I know that most of my readers are full blown enomaniacs, but this list should be helpful for the 1,000's of people who enter our fold every day.

1. Aroma
The intensity and character of the aroma can be assessed with nearly any descriptive adjective. (eg: from "appley" to "raisiny", "fresh" to "tired", etc.). Usually refers to the particular smell of the grape variety. The word "bouquet" is usually restricted to describing the aroma of a cellar-aged bottled wine.

2. Balance
Denotes harmonious balance of wine elements - (ie: no individual part is dominant). Acid balances the sweetness; fruit balances against oak and tannin content; alcohol is balanced against acidity and flavor. Wine not in balance may be acidic, cloying, flat or harsh etc.

3. Crisp (Whites)
Wine has pronounced but pleasing tartness, acidity. Fresh, young and eager, begs to be drunk. Generally used to describe white wines only, especially those of Muscadet de Sevres et Maine from the Loire region of France.

4. Finish
Term used to describe the taste left in the mouth after swallowing the wine. Both character and length of the aftertaste are part of the total evaluation. May be harsh, hot, soft and lingering, short, smooth, tannic, or nonexistent.
5. Fruity
Used for any quality that refers to the body and richness of a wine made from good, ripe grapes. A fruity wine has an "appley", "berrylike" or herbaceous character. "Fruitiness" usually implies a little extra sweetness.

6. Smooth / Soft (Velvety)
Generally has low acid/tannin content. Also describes wines with low alcohol content. Consequently has little impact on the palate.

7. Spicy
Almost a synonym for "peppery". Implies a softer, more rounded flavor nuance however.

8. Structure
The flavor plan, so to speak. Suggests completeness of the wine, all parts there. Term needs a modifier in order to mean something - (eg: "brawny" etc).

9. Tannins (Reds)
A naturally occurring substance in grapeskins, seeds and stems. Is primarily responsible for the basic "bitter" component in wines. Acts as a natural preservative, helping the development and, in the right proportion, balance of the wine. It is considered a fault when present in excess.

10. Taste
The four basic sensations detectable by the human tongue. The tip of the tongue contains the taste receptors registering "sweetness". Just a little further back, at the sides, taste will appear "salty". Behind that, flavour will have a "sour" taste at the sides, finally dissolving into "bitterness" at the near center-rear of the tongue.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hey Kids, Let's Open a Restaurant!

Want to try out for "Last Restaurant Standing?" Think you have the chops to make the cut? Ready to enjoy fine food, snappy cocktails, and exploring restaurants, farmers markets and subject of the hour - street food?

All without gambling with all your 401K funds? Then you should give RESTAURANT CITY a whirl.
Restaurant City (made by Playfish) is an online social game where you can open your own restaurant and enjoy the trials and tribulations of dealing with menus, guests and overflowing restrooms all the while employing your friends as waiters and chefs. It's one of the top 10 most popular games on Facebook with over 10 MILLION people having installed it so far in the past 3 months .. that means 10 MILLION restaurants have opened in 3 months. One's not lacking for choice of eateries.

Here you can try it out directly on Facebook
http://apps.facebook.com/restaurantcity/?pf_ref=x1035 And with a wealth of different decorations, furniture and equipment to choose from you can make your mark with a completely unique restaurant. You can visit your friends' restaurants too and even trade ingredients with them to help you create a menu. It took only 3 months for 10 million restaurants to be created in Restaurant City, whereas it took McDonald's 55 years to open 32,000 restaurants. Just saying.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Green Wine Before St. Patty's Day!

Most of the U.S. thinks all of the wine action in California happens in Napa.
Can't blame them, even Central Coasters don't know that our wine region (3rd largest in the WORLD) leads the nation in sustainable vineyard practices.

Be that as it may there was what the press called, "a groundbreaking summit on green agricultural and business practices" up in Santa Rosa at the end of '08.

This event drew
capacity crowds. The summit provided a comprehensive look at the wine industry's leadership in green practices and opportunities for continuing evolution in best practices in the future.

Congressman Mike Thompson's (D-CA) keynote address explored how the election outcome is likely to change the future outlook for the environment.

"The wine industry has been leading the way in developing cleaner, greener practices to combat climate change and promote sustainable business models," said Congressman Thompson. "We can't afford not to follow their lead in creating a new green economy. Our country faces great challenges, and by investing in new energy technologies we can create good green jobs and develop the infrastructure we need to rebuild our economy."

With more than 50 well respected speakers, the Green Wine Summit was a who's who of green leaders in the wine industry and beyond. Green wine champions including Chris Benziger, Jean-Charles Boisset, Paul Dolan, Peter Mondavi, Jr., Karen Ross, Ann Thrupp and John Williams, among others, covered the latest in sustainable topics.

"We founded the Green Wine Summit because we recognized the wine industry's historic foundation in social responsibility, farming with the long view and future generations in mind and care for the environment. Today, the combination of these is at the heart of sustainability. We saw a need for a forum to explore and share," said Lesley Berglund, Summit Co-Chair.

Looking beyond the world of wine, attendees explored relevant lessons with real take home value from companies like National Geographic's Green Guide, SPG Solar, and Whole Foods, as well as from the Dairy Industry.

The 2009 Green Wine Summit will take place December 1st and 2nd at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa, CA. Potential speakers and sponsors are encouraged to emailCo-Chair Lesley Berglund, or (707) 246-6827.
For more information on the Green Wine Summit, please visit www.greenwinesummit.com.

Monday, June 29, 2009

This Riesling's Drier Than My Sense of Humor

Up 'til now assessing the relative sweetness of a Riesling was as scientific as this post's headline.

When a producer says the wine is "Dry," how do you know what that really means? "A little spicy," to my palate could cause bullets of sweat to shoot forth from the foreheads of some of my compatriots, for instance.

Riding to the rescue is the International Riesling Foundation (the logo on their capes is IRF). This band of Rhine Rangers have designed a simple, ruler-like scale divided into four quarters, from dry to sweet. For each Riesling carrying this scale, an arrowhead marks the wine's relative sweetness.

Harry Peterson-Nedry (his real name), an IRF board member and owner of Oregon's Chelhalem Winery has already included the scale on their three 2008 Riesling cuvées.

Wine geeks already appreciate the fine range of Rieslings made in California, but this will help us take the message to those who still proclaim, "I don't like Rieslings, they're too sweet."

My two local favorite dry, excellent Rieslings come from Claiborne-Churchill and Wolff Vineyards, both in San Luis Obispo's Edna Valley. Fantastic with Thai food and just plain revitalizing as a quaffer on one of our numerous warm afternoons.

And Jekel Vineyards, our eno-neighbor to the north, will be the first California winery to incorporate the Riesling Ruler Scale on their labels.

Source – Santé Magazine, May.2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Think Locally, Drink Globally!

Tired of drinking wine straight from the bottle? That was rhetorical -- it never gets old. But N2Wine decided to make these Wine Globe systems anyways.

Kind of a GQS, Global Quenching System.
Wine globes are glass containers capable of holding 33 or 70 bottles of wine (depending on the size) that are specifically designed to thwart oxidization, the chemical reaction that ages wine, by preventing any air from entering the system.

Instead, the globes vino-filled spheres constantly topped off by "food-grade" nitrogen
(who knew this gas came in grades) when liquid levels deplete, essentially freezing wine's flavor in time.

The wine is also under constant water-cooled temperature regulation so that it's served perfectly every time and, obviously, the system can offer more wines by the glass than most restaurants currently offer.

Each globe costs about $1,000 but can be run in line off the same nitrogen tank. I'm not sure this pencils out, but let's hoist a glass and let someone back at the office make a PowerPoint presentation about it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

You Live in Wine Country When....

... Another Albertson's Announces a Monthly Wine Tasting Event.

Whilst traveling about the States I often get stopped at Reality Checkpoints when, in mid-enosentence, it becomes clear that not even most New Yorkers, for instance, weave the vocabulary of vinifera into daily casual conversation.

Meanwhile, here on the Central Coast, a large grocery chain's store in Paso Robles has featured popular weekly wine tasting events for the past three years.

Now it's "Attention shoppers in Atascadero," as their local Albertson's launches a similar monthly wine event. You can stock up on groceries and have a great opportunity to learn more about our area's favorite agricultural product from winery representatives. Sometimes the wines will be paired with appetizers from North County restaurants.

“It’s not just tasting … It’s more of an educational process here,” explained event coordinator Linda Cooks.

She said the Paso Robles store was the only Albertsons in California to offer wine tasting with the nearby Atascadero store becoming the second.

The Atascadero Albertsons sells wines from 84 local wineries, including Robert Hall Winery in Paso Robles, Wild Horse Vineyards in Templeton and Laetitia Vineyard and Winery in the Arroyo Grande Valley.

Red wine cleanup on isle 6!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Chef Rick's Prime Orcutt's

We so often have the pleasure of tasting Chef Rick's marvelous morsels at events that he caters but seldom make it to his cozy bistro in Orcutt (just outside of Santa Maria, CA).
Any foodie with a half palate in this area is most likely to be an avid (sometimes rabid) fan of one of our area's all time favorite
Chef's with flair.

Besides wonderful food, Rick is an amazingly charming and witty guy. It must be that same Southern charm that infuses his cuisine, as well.
On this recent field trip to the shopping center Chef Rick calls home, we tried his Vegetarian Hero Sandwich and Ed's Blackened Shrimp Quesadilla.

I had to reign myself in to prevent spontaneous inhalation of the Quesadilla. I declare! Veggie Hero was mighty fresh, aromatic and satisfying. His special slaw was a delight.

Great wine list, too. We went with the Wild Horse Chardonnay and it was perfect for this meal.

As you can see, the interior of Chef Rick's is as colorful as the man himself!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

From Ground to Glass - The Movie

I just stumbled across this ground glass breaking film about our favorite industry. The filmaker sent yours truly a Tweet... and it was the first I'd heard about this project. Surprising, since some of my personal favorites are featured! Chuck Ortman, Mike Sinor, Ken Volk and Jim Clendenen, just to a few.

From Ground to Glass features winemaking luminaries from across California, including Warren Winiarski, Joel Peterson, Paul Draper, Bob Lindquist, Chuck Carlson, Chuck Ortman, Richard Sanford, Jim Clendenen, Ken Brown and Brooks Firestone.

It also features up-and-coming winemakers including Wes Hagen and Mike Sinor. btw, Sinor has already achieved international acclaim with his Domaine Alfred Pinot... he has his own winery now (Sinor-LaVallee) and is the winemaker for Ancient Pe
aks Winery.

Robert DeFoe, the filmaker, who is a former professional snowboarder, told us that, "The filming started out as a window into the process of making wine but, as the wine was aging, my focus turned to interviewing winemakers, growers, home enthusiasts and visionaries from all over California. It just unfolded... I discovered a larger story along the way. It is their story as well as my story.”

There's a story in every drop of wine squeezed from every grape on the Central Coast and Robert shares some the reasons (and people) that help make this the world's third largest, fastest growing wine region.
You can buy the DVD here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Favorite Flavor; Affordable

Yes, that's how this weekend's Flavor of SLO event is being promoted. "A delicious event we can all afford."

And, I have to admit, it is one of the more innovative pricing schemes I've seen for a wine/food/live music/benefit event. The two bands that are booked for this extravaganza sound really interesting.

It all happens in Mitchell Park in San Luis Obispo on Sunday, May 31st, from 12 - 4 pm. Lots of great wines and restaurants and foods will be on hand, including some long time local faves that I've never seen at these events like Tio Alberto's, the Far Western Tavern and Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

It's a "I'm Full" Indigo Moon in Cambria, California

You can see it rising through the pines!

Actually Indigo Moon is a cozy restaurant that's been a fixture in Cambria for many moons.

I had one of their specials; pecan encrusted Halibut that was perfect. My dinning companions had crab cakes, nut dusted goat cheese salad, and an Angus burger with sweet potato fries .... and then desserts!

Turns out our friend Sara, who was part of our party, makes the desserts. The raspberry cheesecake was melting people upon the first tastes and the chocolate cake with house-made coffee ice cream (pictured) was just stunningly good.

Just writi
ng about it has revived my craving!

The service was warm and friendly, atmosphere is cozy and comfy and the outdoor garden seating is perfect for a sunny, California coasting lunch.

And they h
ave a wine/artisan cheese tasting bar area in the front!

Call 'em up: (805) 927-2911

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wine - Adult Education

Every so often, those of use who are up to our neck in vast vats of wine knowledge, trivia and gossip, need to take a step back and extend a helping hand to those who, by age or interest, are just beginning to explore Enotopia.

My thanks to new Wine Whisperer follower, Kevin Zraly of New York for three nicely done (and visual) primers on
How to Read Wine Labels, The Red Wine Texture Scale, and All You Need to Know About California Wine. I don't know how that last one is possible... I can barely keep up with just the wines of California's Central Coast.

Kevin's website and book is found at: www.kevinzraly.com

Mr. Zraly, btw,is the winner of the '06 Wine Literary Award, European Wine Council's Lifetime Achievement Award, and has been featured in the NY Times, Newsweek and GQ.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wine Whisperer on "Chardonnay-sayers"

At a recent tasting event, attended by yours truly (incognito), I chanced to overhear one of those ABC people .. Anything But Chardonnay.

I know that those of us who spend a large part of our waking hours thinking about, and sometimes even drinking, wine are often shocked to discover that some perceptions about certain wines that we thought had changed years ago still persist.

Like when rosé re-bloomed in California and was newly infused with elegant, delicate touches and we coaxed, teased and cajoled our non-eno friends into tasting something they swore would never pass their lips again; an oath usually taken during their college years.

I can't believe that old prejudices against this noble grape still walk among the tasting room rompers, just because, 15 years ago or so, Mrs. Butterworth's Chardonnay served in a freshly-hewn oak bowl, laid her heavy hand across the land.

Chardonnay, the Queen of the white wine grapes. The backbone of world's most cherished Champagnes and sparkling wines. Tasty companion to warm summer afternoons, East Indian food and shellfish.

Click here, if you dare, to hear me rant on about those who think they're being hip by being critical because they put fashion before palate!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wine Centre Coming to Center of Paso Robles!

Soon, Paso Robles will have is very own Enomatic equiped tasting room in heart of historic downtown.
Paso Wine Centre (love the Euro-spelling, maybe SLO's new double decker bus will stop there, too) will feature Enomatic tasting technology and specialize in wines from the region.

Best of all, net proceeds will benefit charities that provide clean drinking water and sanitation projects around the world.

I've often commented on how it is possible to spend three days wine tasting just in the heart of downtown Paso ... now here goes a whole afternoon at one stop!

This welcome addition, a project of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, will afford visitors the opportunity to discover great Paso wines and then plan their Wine Country tours accordingly. And benefit a great cause in the process.

The Wine Whisperer calls that a , "Win Win!" Ahhhh, how I do love the double W's!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tweet! Honk! Kogi-A -Go-Go.

Kogi, has taken a fixture of California cuisine culture, the taco truck, and added a Korean twist and a big dose of Twitter.

"Roach Coaches" as their popularly known, have seen a duo of Korean BBQ-inspired trucks added to their ranks in Los Angeles.

But it's not only the master chef created menu and great food that
has brought Kogi it fanatical following and fame. They have "Tweeted" their way to international stardom and are showing restaurateurs how to find new customers during a recession.

It certainly worked. The only way you can find out where the Kogi trucks are going to be is through Twitter. But it's more than glorified tracking device, locals describe the phenomenon as more like a "roving party."

Or as brand director Mike Prasad says, " We wanted to create a single place where fans could gather. We had to create a home for them. Twitter was a natural fit." The plan worked. Since launching in November, Kogi has attracted more than 15,000 followers on Twitter (http://twitter.com/kogibbq).

So how did the romance that led to the marriage of tacos and Korean BBQ begin?
According to founder, thirty-year-old Mark Manguera, he was sitting with his 25-year-old sister-in-law, Alice Shin, one night after the restaurant was closed. They were sharing some Champagne and tacos when the taste of L.A.'s most ubiquitous street food caused him to have a drunken revelation.
"I'm biting into my taco and it dawned on me, 'Alice, wouldn't it be great if someone put Korean barbecue on a taco?,' " recalls Manguera, who is Filipino but married into a Korean family.

All of us that travel in circles populated with chefs and winemakers have heard and/or come up thousands of "great new restaurant/food product ideas."
But Manguera followed through. He got a taco-truck and brought in former
RockSugar chef Roy Choi as a partner, and he enlisted friends and family to begin blogging, branding and Twittering on his behalf.

The result: The
Kogi Korean BBQ roving vehicle which has become a social-networking role model, drawing 300 to 800 people each time it parks and creating a Deadhead like group of cyber-followers affectionately known as "Kogi kulture."

And wine pairing ideas, gang? Tweet your twittering, whispering tip monger at

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen; Put on Your Logo Glasses

Every year, following on the heels of the Easter Bunny, is the launch of Wine Fest Season on California's Central Coast.

From Earthwise to Sideways, there's something for everybody.
This weekend kicks off with the Ultimately Fine Blues and Wine Dinner at Costa d'Oro featuring wine maker, Gary Burk's blues band....right off U.S. 101 in Santa Maria. Besides being quite a gitar picker, Gary makes some great wine.

Saturday you have a tough choice between the Earth Day Food and Wine Festival which takes place in a spectacular locale; the historic Santa Margarita Ranch.

Head south, in the opposite direction, to Lompoc for the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Wine Festival.

At the end of April is the internationally acclaimed (and attended) Hospice du Rhone in Paso Robles.
And this is just the beginning of the season!

Monday, March 30, 2009

"China Grove" Brand in Your Future?

BEIJING (AFP) - One of the great names in wine-making, Domaines Barons de Rothschild, said Sunday it plans to develop a vineyard in China to take advantage of growing interest in wine here.

The owners of the famed Chateau Lafite wine brand will plant the vineyard on 25 hectares (62 acres) on a peninsula in eastern China's Shandong province, according to a statement.

The joint venture vineyard will be developed with China International Trust and Investment Company (CITIC), a state-owned investment company.

"I am very pleased to develop a vineyard in a country where the interest in fine wines is increasing every year. It is particularly exciting to participate in the creation of an exceptional Chinese 'grand cru,'" Baron Eric de Rothschild said in the statement.

The Penglai peninsula was chosen as the site after a nationwide search because "it proved to be the most promising area to produce a great wine, in terms of both its climatic and geological conditions," the statement said.

Consumption of wine has surged in China along with that of other consumer goods as its economy has boomed in recent years.

The country became one of the global top ten wine consumers in 2005, but there remains a lot of potential for foreign labels as 95 percent of the wines now consumed are Chinese-made.

The pleasing minerality was balanced with just a hint of melamine.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Is Pizza Machine a Bunch of Bologna?

ROME (Reuters) – A vending machine that bakes fresh pizza in minutes for a few euros has got Italian chefs in a whirl before it hits the streets in the coming weeks.

The bright-red "Let's Pizza" machine uses infra-red rays and technology developed at the University of Bologna to knead flour and water into dough, spread it with tomato sauce and a choice of topping, and cook it -- all in less than three minutes.

Its developer, Claudio Torghele, says the machine has proved popular in trials in two Italian regions, but gourmets say it is an affront to traditional methods of cooking the classic dish.

"This is not just a vending machine, it's a mini-pizzeria," said Torghele, 56. "It has windows where you can watch the pizza-making process. Kids, including my own, love it: when the machine is working, there's always a crowd."

The device was developed with help from Anglo-Dutch group Unilever, which tested it in Germany, Torghele said. He hopes to launch the machines across Europe and in the United States, with ingredients varying according to local tastes.

At present it offers four toppings -- cheese and tomato, bacon, ham and fresh vegetables -- at an average cost of 4 euros. Torghele thinks "Let's Pizza" will appeal to Europeans looking for cheap options as a recession hits their pockets. "If I want to eat a great pizza, I go to a pizzeria. But our product is satisfactory, low cost and available 24-hours a day," he said. "This is crisis proof ... McDonald's is increasing its sales. Low cost, fast food is in demand."

Italy is famed for its cuisine and has seen a movement develop against fast food, called "Slow Food." But it has more vending machines than any other country in Europe, according to an industry body, mostly doling out hot coffee drinks.

Purists say the Italian pizza -- invented in the 18th century in the southern city of Naples -- cannot be rushed: the dough must be mixed and left for 12 hours, the ingredients kept fresh, and the oven pre-heated to around 300 degrees.

"This machine is a toy," Pino Morelli of the Association of Italian Pizzerias said. "Perhaps it will find a niche overseas, but Italians are born with pizza: their mothers feed it to them as babies. They understand it.

In Pizzeria Brandi, nestling near the center of ramshackle Naples, the reaction to Torghele's invention was cool.

The restaurant invented the pizza Margherita in 1889 in honor of the queen of the newly unified country, its tomato, mozzarella and basil toppings mimicking Italy's flag.

"Unfortunately, today people invent many things, but you can't make any comparison, especially in terms of quality," said chef Marcello, taking a break from sliding pizzas on a wooden pole into the dome-shaped oven. "The only benefit is the price."

"We should scrap this 'pizza machine' and bring back the old jukeboxes: at least they were charming," said Paolo Pagnani, who owns the historic restaurant.

(Additional reporting by Cristiano Corvino, editing by Paul Casciato

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Title After Our Own Hearts ....

Book Review: Heard it Through the Grapevine by Matt Skinner

skinner_heardit_cover.jpgThere are two things I wish were more easily found in the world of wine: great bottles for under $5, and excellent introductory wine books for novice wine lovers. Although after reading his latest book Heard it Through The Grapevine: The Things You Should Know to Enjoy Wine, I'm tempted to suggest that the wine world also needs more people like Matt Skinner.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Skinner stumbled into the wine world almost by accident. As relayed in a 2005 profile in the UK's The Observer, his transformation from surf bum to celebrity sommelier sounds more like the plot to a Hollywood movie than the early career of a successful wine writer. But listen to Skinner talk about wine, and it's clear that however accomplished he may be in the wine world, he still has one foot on the surfboard, so to speak.

That attitude is the Matt Skinner angle on wine, part of his charm, and no doubt one of the reasons that Naked Chef Jamie Oliver, who cultivates a similar enfant terrible image, tapped Skinner to be the sommelier for his London restaurant Fifteen in 2002. Skinner continues to manage the wine operations for the now global restaurant group, while also making a living as a writer, consultant and educator.

Heard it Through the Grapevine is Skinner's third book on wine and his most basic to date. In every way, the book attempts to be an essential guide for the complete wine novice, and it succeeds beautifully. I've thumbed my way through a lot of "educational" wine books -- probably close to a hundred of them -- and I always come away with one of three primary complaints. These books are either too dense with information, too boring, or too poorly organized. Heard it Through the Grapevine strikes the right balance between volume and type of information, style of presentation, organization, and attitude.


Heard it Through The Grapevine: The Things You Should Know to Enjoy Wine, Mitchell Beazley 2009, $17.99, (Hardcover).