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Quick Thoughts and Cheap Shots

By Stephen Eliot

Is Chardonnay back? Did it ever really leave? While I admit that more red wine than white gets poured here at Chez Eliot, good Chardonnay finds its way to the table when the menu insists. I never quite understood the wholesale distain that the more vocal advocates of “Anything But Chardonnay” (ABC) had for the grape and still argue that Chardonnay and Riesling make equal claim to being the most interesting white varieties around. I wearied years back when so-called wine sophisticates would predictably roll their eyes any time that Chardonnay was mentioned and could not help but wonder how many good examples that had actually tried. Just yesterday, I ran across a short piece in the Irish Times wherein wine writer, John Wilson, referred to a burgeoning “Back to Chardonnay” (BTC) bunch. I like the term and rather hope that it will catch on.

If recent tweets from assistant managing editor, Kitty Morgan, and staff-writer Jonathan Kaufman are any indication, it looks like the folks running the San Francisco Chronicle’s late-great Food and Wine section are miffed at the NY Times for writing about California’s “In Pursuit of Balance” marketing group without giving credit to “uber critic” Jon Bonné who apparently “defined” new California wine. Funny, but I thought that actual vintners and grape growers did the “defining” such as new might actually exist. I may have to reconsider Mr. Bonné’s seminal contributions to the winemaking art. I hear the wineries up in Napa are thinking about putting up a new statue for Jon right next to the one depicting crush time as you enter the valley…or maybe not.

Finally, I have always been fascinated by the parade of vinous placebos that enterprising types keep coming up with to enhance the wine-tasting “experience”. I recall pyramids, magnets and magic “keys” that claimed to age wine in mere seconds, and the latest innovation is the “Oak Bottle Wine and Spirit Aging Vessel”. For a mere $60.00 you can now improve your favorite tipple in by pouring it into a wooden bottle and thereby instantly replicate the character normally gained by years of barrel aging. As claimed in a press release announcing its debut, the Oak Bottle is easy to use and will infuse “traditional oak barrel flavors into your favorite spirit (or wine) in four days or less”. It seems that Mr. Barnum is still right after all these years.


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