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MONDAY MANIFESTOS
05/20/2013
Monday Manifestos
At Last—A Blog With Real Tasting Notes

By Charles Olken

So, the other day I asked a person who sells wine—whose job it is to move boxes of wine—about this question: Do people want tasting notes or do they want stories?

Her answer came quickly and clearly and unequivocally: “Both”, spake she who should know. “The market is more turbulent and bifurcated than at any time during my career in the biz. We have always been able to sell our mid-priced ($20+) wines with good recommendations, and we can still sell wines more expensive than that with the endorsement of a recognized expert. Of course, if we cannot get a recognized expert, we used to be able to call out a Gold Medal or even our winemaker’s comments. We can’t do that anymore”.

Before I let her off the hook, I raised the question about what the Millennial generation wants. We hear so much talk about how they are different from older wine drinkers and how the traditions of the elders are totally disrespected. Forget tasting notes, we are told. The Millenials want stories. Forget “expert opinion”, we are told. They want the advice of their peers, and because they are so connected via social media, they will never follow the old patterns.

I have to admit that I was shocked by her reaction. She, who is a self-admitted “connector”; she who loves Facebook and Twitter; she who believes that she has cracked the Millenial code. She told me straight out. This latest generation truly wants to drink good wine. They are employed, and have disposable income, and their parents were wine drinkers so they are also wine drinkers. Sure, they like stories. We all like stories. But, while they are not subscribers to wine publications in big numbers, they seem to follow trends and they like being upscale.

Forget tasting notes? Nope, that is not how it works. But, subscriptions to traditional media. It is not working that way either. What this sales maven sees is a wholly different picture. Let’s call it “trickle down” guidance, because it still starts with expert opinion. The wine intelligence then gets spread via trendy restaurants and via social media. But, and this is the key point, the operative variable in the Millenial equation: they may not know about traditional tasting notes, but they are swayed by them nevertheless because they want the best and are willing to pay for it.

So, for those Millenials who need expertise, but do not yet get it directly, I hereby present tasting notes on wines that are Good Values. Let the word spread. Because the better you drink now, the better you will drink when you are no longer under thirty, when you get married and move to the suburbs, when you have a big dog and 2.2 kids who play soccer. Our sales friend may not quote tasting notes to you, but she is reaching you with expertise and visions of good wine just like wineries have done for generations before you.

87 CONN CREEK Herrick Red Cabernet Sauvignon  Napa Valley 2009 $18.00
Distinctly varietal themes of ripe black cherries and currants are joined by a lesser note of dried herbs and a light, sweetening touch of caramel in the mid-density aromas and flavors of this wine, and, if not one for high extract or flashiness, it is a clean and eminently likeable effort that shows far better balance and crafting than its modest price might suggest.

91 STEMMLER Chardonnay  Carneros 2011 $24.00
With both good volume and interesting bits of complex notes to its credit, this medium-full-bodied bottling shows up with more fruit and energy than the vintage reputation indicates. Its aromas feature decently ripe and lively fruit filled out by crème brulée and lightly caramelly oak and hints of roasted grains. Medium-full in body, slightly oily and so well-balanced, the wine does tighten up just a touch in the latter palate and finish as its youth and bright acids make their own statements. It has time on its side, and we would expect it to keep improving over the next one to three or four years and hold quite nicely beyond that.

89 THREE RIVERS Merlot Columbia Valley 2010 $19.00
Classically focused Merlot aromas of ripe red cherries, hints of rich herbs and caramel and milk chocolate notes that are common to Washington versions of the variety presage a full and rich wine on the palate. Lively in its fruit and mouthfilling in texture, this wine flirts with high ripeness but pulls back and instead keeps its focus on varietal character. Its moderate tannins will hold it in good stead for a half decade, and it is about as good as it gets in a Merlot for less than $20.00.

89 WHITE OAK Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley 2011 $17.00
Convincingly varietal without going too far and showing plenty of deep, nicely concentrated citrus, kiwi and green-melon fruit as a counterpoint to its freshening elements of grass and green tea, this carefully-balanced, medium-full-bodied Sauvignon gets good marks across the board. It ends with a lengthy, mineral-tinged finish, and, while quite tasty now, it has room for several years of very positive development.

89 TANGENT Paragon Vineyard Viognier Edna Valley 2011 $17.00
Stepping back several steps from its opulent and more highly ripened cousins, Tangent's lively look at Viognier shows a lean, slightly citrusy bent and is balanced to crispness. It hints quietly at the floral qualities of the grape and is marked by the slightest spritz on the palate, and it is certain to make a refreshing foil to a wide range of lighter seafoods ranging from crab cakes to sole.

91 BIG VINE Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2011 $20.00
From its deep and very well-defined fruit to its impressions of balance and winemaking polish, this is a Zinfandel that hits all the right marks. It is full but not heavy, very long on the palate and never once shows even an inkling of heat, and that it dares to check in with a comparatively modest $20.00 price tag only adds to its attractiveness. This is one that unrepentant fans of the grape will not want to miss, and its very careful construction suggests that it will keep despite being so very inviting today.


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For thirty-five years, Connoisseurs’ Guide has been the authoritative voice of the California wine consumer. With readers in all fifty states and twenty foreign countries, the Guide is valued by wine lovers everywhere for its honesty and for it strong adherence to the principles of transparency, unbiased, hard-hitting opinions. Now, it is becoming the California winelover’s most powerful online voice as well. And, our new features provide an unmatched array of advice and information for aficionados of every stripe.

Comments

Hmmmmmm...
by TomHill
Posted on:5/20/2013 1:02:01 PM

Charlie Sez: "The Millenials want stories. Forget “expert opinion”, we are told."

Hmmmm....Charlie...sorta made my day. Looks like I'm right square in the middle of the Mellenials camp. Now...if'n I can only figure out how to do that FaceBook and Twitter stuff.

   I, too, want "stories". I pine for the days when you could pick up Phillip's Vintage magazine or Dee's WineWorld or BobMorrisey's WineSpectator; sit down and read it, cover-to-cover, and put it down and think "I actually learned something new".

   You will encounter that only occasionally in today's wine publications...articles that you learn something new from. But not very often. Probably JoshGreene's W&S does it best of any these days. But, mostly, wine publications these days are endless compilations of tasting notes and scores. I don't need that. I don't want advice on what wines I want to buy. I want to read something that I can actually learn something new from.

   I don't subscribe to WineAdvocate (but read every issue...borrowed from a friend). I don't subscribe to CGCW (you hadn't noticed that, Charlie??). I don't want to read TN's telling me what to buy...I want to learn something. As you well know, I was a charter subscriber to CGCW. I was looking back at issue

Yep, you need both...
by Sherman
Posted on:5/22/2013 9:50:00 PM

...good scores AND stories if you want to move wine and make converts of customers. Based on years of experience on both sides of the wine selling divide (retail and wholesale), I can tell y'all that to grab someone's attention in a crowded retail environment, or in the few minutes a busy wine buyer has to meet, you need to catch their attention. That's the job of a good score from a recognized authority; the catch being that the recognition is in the perception of the buyer.

 

Most retail consumers are perusing a wall o' wine, befuddled and looking about for someone to come and help them. In the scant time they spend perusing linear feet of shelves, a shelf talker (aka the "silent salesman") with a good score may catch their eye. A good retailer will (hopefully)have approached them by then and engage them in conversation -- and this is where the Story comes in.

 

The score is a starting point, gets their attention and then serves as a starting point for a conversation of the wine, what they want and (more importantly) what they need -- not always the same thing, either.

 

Millenials are not that much different than other wine enthsuiasts, just receiving their information in a faster digital format. But NEVER discount the human interest of a good story.

5/20/13 post
by Tom Barras
Posted on:6/5/2013 5:00:28 PM

Charlie,

My issue with the social media like Zagat, Yelp , Facebook is that every post is from an anonymous source, with no visible track record or expertise, and is therefore quite unreliable. Why trust such opinions?

 

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