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Thursday Thorns: The Report Card
All The News That’s Fit To Spit

By Charles Olken

Sometimes the news is just too good to ignore. Sometimes it is just too funny or too ironic to ignore. And sometimes it is just news. Consider the following.

Item: Truck Full of Wine Burns on I-80 in Iowa

Seems like a truck full of wine from Oregon was sitting overnight at an off-ramp in Iowa when its refrigeration unit caught fire. The drivers escaped but not before being burned in the process, and that is not funny. But what caught my eye and begs for an answer is what was the refrigeration unit doing in mid-winter in Iowa? It should have been even faster asleep than the drivers.

Item: Pennsylvania Lawmakers Says “No” to Privatization of Liquor Sales

My first reaction was “so what’s new”? When has any government ever given up a good source of revenue except possibly the U. S. when it cut taxes and helped create a larger Federal deficit? Well, no State is about to go that route in these difficult times, and that is the major reason that Representative Kevin Murphy cites when he says that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board brings in $400 million to the State coffers every year. Somehow, he did not get around to talking about what the citizens of his state feel when they cannot get the wine they want and have to pay more for whatever it is that the State does sell. I need to add that I have visited those Pennsylvania stores and was impressed that they seemed reasonably well run. On the other hand, without competition, they have no real reason to get better and no real reason to offer the kinds of services that a small, dedicated wine merchant can offer.

Item: Dan Berger Gets One Right

I kid my friend Dan because he is one of the most opinionated, outspoken people in the wine world and because some of his ideas are too narrow for my taste. But Dan is also a very smart guy with a good imagination and sense of vision. In a recent article, Dan commented about the Vintners Hall of Fame in Napa. Its 2011 induction ceremony for its honorees happened last Monday, and some very fine and deserving people were inducted. It has not always been thus because the first couple of years seemed to be more of a Napa popularity contest than a serious attempt to honor the folks who truly have made the great contributions to California wine. What Dan has done is to pen a very polite column reminding us that the Vintners Hall of Fame continues to miss out on some of the most deserving folks. Just to name a couple whom Dan mentioned and for whom I agree: Fred McCrea whose Stony Hill was one of the great Chardonnays back fifty years ago when there was no Chadonnay (listed at less than100 acres and lumped in among “Other Reds” in the grape survey of the time). And Robert Lawrence Balzer. Mr. Balzer is among the people who created the category of wine writer in the United States. We would have got there without him, but we would not have got there as early or as well. I have seen nominations to the Hall over the years of much younger and less accomplished writers. Dan is right. Robert Lawrence Balzer belongs in the Vintners Hall of Fame.

And on a personal note, Robert Parker, whatever else anyone thinks of him, has had a profound effect on the way wine is perceived, talked about, written about in this country. He has been on the ballot but does not get enough votes. And I suspect that some of it is personal. Dan did not mention Mr. Parker. I don’t mind adding his name myself.

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