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Friday Fishwrap
New News Makes The Vinous World Go ‘Round

By Stephen Eliot

During dinner on the first night of last week’s trip to Paso Robles wine country, Charlie and I were asked a question that we have heard more than once before. “How do you keep doing it? How do you manage to continue to write with authority and enthusiasm after so many wines and so many years?” This time it came from the sales director of one of our favorite local wineries. It turned out that he is a long-time subscriber who is well-versed in the ways of CGCW, and one whose familiarity with our work predates by many years his involvement with a winery about which we regularly say nice things. The point is that his question was one of intent, not simply a social nicety or fodder for dinner conversation, and it deserved more than the usual pat answer, except for the fact that the simple pat answer is true.

Now, I do not deny that as one who tastes professionally four or five days a week there are days when I would prefer not to look at another glass of wine. There are nights when an icy Martini is my tipple of choice and afternoons when a Diet Coke looks better to me than one more Cabernet, but such moments of weakness are thankfully few.

Yes, we do taste many thousands of wines every year, and there are moments when enough is enough, but they come and go almost unnoticed. We actually like what we do, and there is so much more to what we do than simply tasting wine and scribbling notes. The imperatives of “new” are not limited to pulling the corks on newly released bottles. We do not have to manufacture enthusiasm because there is always something new and exciting in our world.

It is often said that fine wine is born of a unique marriage of science and art, and neither are, by nature, static. New wineries, new ideas about where and what should be grown, new winemaking techniques and, of course, new vintages make for a constantly changing vinous landscape that for us remains as fascinating today as it was at the beginning. Even in the theoretical and wholly impossible circumstance of knowing all there is to know about wine today, there will be thousands and thousands of new wines to consider with the next harvest and the one after that. How then can we or any dyed-in-the-wool lover of wine possibly get bored?

As things turned out, our weekend in Paso Robles gave my Friday night “pat answer” new validation. There are serious things going on in Northern San Luis Obispo County. Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon is getting a new look and proving its worth with recent releases from the likes of Daou, L’Aventure, Jada, and Sextant, and the appellation’s roster of important producers who embrace Rhône varietals is expanding as names like Denner, Epoch, Booker and Alta Collina have emerged.

During our visit, we attended a brief seminar on local Cabernet Sauvignon that closed with the comment that “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” While we do not doubt the potential for Cabernet success thereabouts, we found inspiration and excitement on more fronts than one and cannot wait to see what awaits with any number of varietals, both red and white.

One thing for sure…we will be back before long.


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5/03/13 posting
by tom barras
Posted on:5/3/2013 10:47:52 AM

Do your tasting wines ever find their way to the dinner table at night, and if so, to what extent, if at all, do you find your ratings are reconsidered in light of the food/wine synergism?

by stephen eliot
Posted on:5/3/2013 9:59:25 PM

Hi Tom.

The answer to your question of whether we try the wines with foods is an unquivocal YES. We will often follow our tastings with a dinner specifically geared to a particular varietal, and all of the wines will be tasted again with the meal. These days, there are simply too many wines to try every last one with food, but even on those days when we do not imeediately follow up with a meal, you can be certain that a good many of the wines wind up in both Charlie's and my kitchens. We practive what we preach and have the waistlines to prove it.

As to the second part of your questions, our ratings are rarely changed by the way a given wine interacts with food, but it has been known to happen. If a wine behaves unexpectedly, we will make comments to that effect in our notes and perhaps adjust our food recommendations. We have a pretty good idea, after nearly forty years of doing this, as to how this or that wine will match up with various foods, but we are still surprised sometimes and are always open to reconsidering what we ultimately might say about the wine.

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