Mar 232016
 

Pat Fegan

Very sad news this past week that our old friend Pat Fegan had passed away.

Pat was an institution in Chicago. He taught classes, wrote about wine, and knew everyone who mattered. But more than that, Pat put his own stamp of the world of wine in Chicago, and frankly, the whole Midwest. That stamp is still there is so many ways.

Pat was among the most knowledgeable people in the world about grapevines and varieties, but he was the antithesis of the pedantic academic expert. Always ready with at least three of the latest jokes, always happy to say hello to his hundreds, maybe thousands of students, Pat made wine fun in every way. He made the world a better place, and we are much poorer for his passing.

Tonight I think I’ll raise a glass of Tempranillo in honor of Pat—and hear his voice reminding me of the many different names that grape has in Spain–much to his amusement. And then he’d move on to a joke told quietly out of the corner of his mouth…

Mar 212016
 

Real Estate vs. Wine

This weekend I started reading the real estate section of the San Francisco Chronicle, just for giggles. Normally I can’t be bothered, and I certainly don’t have the kind of money that allows me to peruse the ads for million dollar homes.

But what I found was pretty interesting. There were scores and scores of descriptions of properties for sale—just like in the wine business. In fact, the whole real estate section reminded me of a wine magazine, with a few feature articles, and then endless listings of “tasting notes” of houses for sale

Only in this case, all the descriptions were perfectly intelligible. No effort to show the reader how clever the writer was, nor use of obscure or overly inflated language or descriptors. Just plain old words talking about houses. None of the houses was painted in the delicate colors of a charentais melon, or had gardens infused with the blossoms of stone roses. The dining room floors were not described as having notes of polished rare Allier oak, nor did the carpets capture nuances of zin-berries and cassis.

I couldn’t help thinking that if you can sell a house for $1M with simple words, why can’t you sell an $23 bottle of wine that way? Wineries should take note when publishing their own tasting notes.

Mar 142016
 

TEXSOM International Wine Awards

3200 Entries. The good news is that my panel didn’t have to judge them all!

As a judge at the TEXSOM International Wine Awards, there are always three things I look forward to doing.

  1. Meeting and chatting with the other judges. This is a wonderful collection of some of the finest palates in the world, and this group is particularly fun to talk and taste with. Many of us have judged for quite a few years here, and there is just a little bit of a sense of something between a reunion and a tontine about the whole event.
  2. Tasting some really good wines. This year the first day’s panel, chaired by Sharron McCarthy, worked through a whole series of wines from Latin America, and the second day I chaired a panel focused on California wines from RON: Regions other than Napa. And each day we found plenty to like and give bronze, silver and golds medals.
  3. James Tidwell and Drew Hendricks know how to put on a competition. With the foundation laid by Becky Murphy, this one is really well organized, from the reception and lodging of the judges to the logistics and table organization of the wines. I am sure there are a thousand small crises in the back room, but from what I could see as a judge, it was flawless.

Will I do this one again? Absolutely, assuming I’m invited back (every competition rotates judges from time to time to keep things fresh.) And in the meantime, I have a new appreciation of some of the wines and regions I judged this year. Can’t beat that!