Friday, April 25, 2008

How Can You Not Like This?!

Last night I was watching Step It Up and Dance on Bravo, (Okay you caught me...I love me some reality t.v.! Top Chef, Work Out, Blow Out, Step It Up and Dance....I even watched The Real Housewives Of New York...could not get into the Orange County Housewives one, Intervention love, love, love it) and the challenge was stomp, (making of music with your feet, banging trash can lids and brooms) I was spellbound! I was on the edge of my seat, watching them thump around pounding their feet on the ground in unison had me bouncing my shoulders and wanting to dance. I called over to my husband who was working on the computer, (working is a stretch..he was playing like Frogger or something) "Isn't this amazing? Watch this, did you see that? God, doesn't this make you want jump up and start stomping your feet" to which he said, "No, not at all". It got so quiet in my living room I could hear my eyelashes slapping together with each stunned blink of my eyes. Tiny audible gurgles came out of the gaping hole that was my wide open mouth. "Are you high? What is the matter with you?" was my brilliant retort, because you know nothing will change someones mind like making them feel like you think they are a complete idiot....

I sat there shaking my head wondering how you could not be moved it occurred to me, just as much as I love that thunderous thump of a hard base line, the way it seems to slither into my spine and take control of my whole body is as much as my husband hates it. Much in the same way his guitar screaming, mumbling lead singer college complaint rock makes me want to curl into a ball and eat my own hair. So who is right?! In a very "grown up" moment I had to concede...we both are.

Now what the hell does this have to do with wine you might ask....wait for it....oh yea...points and wine writers. I've tasted a few wines that have given super high scores by Robert Parker and more often than not I thought they were clunky, insipid and over saturated. A wine he gave a 98 to I would give a...uh...yucky, blech, please hand me a glass of water to wash that down with. The Wine Spectator does not fare much better with my palate and when I taste these wines along with the write ups I think, "Are you high. What is the matter with you?". So who is right? Dammit it has been one humbling week for me, the answer is we all are....but who is right for you? A number means nothing to your palate. Does a 98 sneak into your spine and move you? If you are a fan of the wines that get a 85 does that mean you have cheap taste, have no taste, (like in the case of my husband and his music) don't get it or are less enlightened than the so called professionals? If the high scoring wines hit you the right way then might it just mean that you have similar taste with the pen yielding number giver? For me, if I had to consume the wines that are considered the, end-all-be-all by the wine press.....I would drink less wine. Not their fault, we just have very different taste. So what to do now, in the whole who is right thing? The answer is you are. What you like to drink is worth 100 points plain and simple. Find a retailer, (ahem...much like The Wine Country in Siganl Hill CA...ahem or 800 505-5564) that can work with you, learn what it is that makes you move, makes you happy and remembers it! A relationship with a wine shop is the key to a lifetime of 100 point palate happiness.


Ronnie Grant said...

Sam I think you've hit the nailon the head.

The difference between what we do and some person reviewing and rating wine for a publication is we bring wine into the store for specific customers that have specific tastes. Some have a different palate than I do – there are some wines I've brought into the store that are well made, but I wouldn't take home. But I know quite a few customers that would take them home and enjoy them immensely.

I'm not reviewing wine in our newsletter (frankly, we are reviewing wine) to inform the vox populi like wine magazines do. To me it's all about finding a wine at each price point that I know will appease one person; which is actually the hardest part of recommending wine for individual palates.

As I just mentioned, we at The Wine Country, also rate wine; though without scores. We publish a newsletter that has basically rated every single wine brought into the store. I'm not going to bring into the store wine that is no good. I want wine in the store that is good, very good, excellent, or just plain winegasmic; wine that others will enjoy! They're not going to drink swill, or in other words a poorly rated wine.

I've also never really had a problem with the wine press handing out scores. Having written articles as a free-lance writer I understand a little where the they're coming from; any publication worth reading needs to have credibility so I'm going to cut the wine press some slack when they score wines. Whether they have credibility is for another time and blog.

To me, they're not going to rate wines high, or low, unless the wines warrant it. Handing out a high score for wine that doesn't deserve it is, to me, just like walking around with a stick of dynamite with the fuse lit. The public, and the wine press' peers, will in the end blow-up over a wine with a shoddy score (high or low) if a reviewer hands out scores that aren't warranted.

Samantha Dugan said...


I don't mean to sound like I hate the wine press, as a matter of fact I think the more people read about wine the more inclined they will be to drink some...that is all good in my book! I think reviewing wine is very important, it's the giving of a number that baffles me.

Just like you I bring in some wines that are not suited to my palate but will please my um what number should those wines get?! See what I'm trying to say? Lets say I had to give a score to a young red Burgundy, knowing full well how it might evolve over time and based on my "score" a Zinfandel fan buys the wine and pops the cork to drink with dinner that evening.....what would my high score do for that customer? Nada, ziltch....nuttin! That is why I give new customers the third degree when I first meet them, "What do you like to drink? What have you had lately that blew your mind" things that will help me learn what they like in an effort to make sure I recommend a wine for them.
Thanks for posting dude!

Ronnie Grant said...

Sam, my love, I didn't think you were being hard on the wine press; though, if you were, they deserve it. Scores are great, but only for the person handing out the score. Maybe there is some self-edification knowing one thinks a wine is excellent, or something.

I will add that a great score is wonderful and free advertising for the winery.

Back on topic...this wine drinking thing is one of the most personal things in the world. You know, that individual thing. By the way, I guess I just regurgitated the entire premise of your original post. A wine reviewed by one person means absolutely zilch to another person - at least it should.

The best way we can "review" wine is by doing exactly what you do when you "interrogate" customers about the wines they like. Unless somebody is going to share the darn bottle with me it doesn't matter if I like the wine's style.

It's all about the person cracking the bottle open.

Samantha Dugan said...

There are few things that feel better to me than when a customer comes back and says, "That wine was perfect" or "You were so right, that Vouvray was perfect with my crab dish". That personal connection with really is awesome. I never want to sell anyone a wine they might not like...which is why I have at times talked people out of some "featured" wines because I know they wont find what they are looking for in that bottle.
I just want people to enjoy wine and remember that it is what they like that matters!

Nancy Deprez said...

Wow, great dialog here!

Great piece, Sam. I think different strokes for different folks, and one palate does not dictate for everyone, that's for sure! Though it seems wine writing has been helpful for the general public.

Incidentally, I agree with you that having a relationship with your wine retailer is the best. I was just in Canada and read the paper and there was an article about how more of the public are into wine and are willing to pay $60 or $100 for a bottle of wine in a restaurant BUT servers don't know anything about the wine. The article was saying that the staff should know something about the wine and how it goes with the food. People want that. People don't mind spending the extra bucks for good wine, but they want the people helping them with the purchase to be knowledgeable. I think this is where fine wine retailers can and do excel. Having such a dialog is so important and adds so much to the enjoyment of wine.

Samantha Dugan said...

I was wondering if you were going to weigh in on this post as you have been a defender of sorts to the wine press for years now. I would like to state just one more time that I take no issue with the wine press, only the scoring system. You are correct that the wine media has been very helpful to many and has provided information that fired people up and sent them out to seek the wines they read could any wine retailer in their right mind see that as anything other than wonderful?! I just wonder why there has to be a number or score attached to the wines they write up...seriously when was the last time a customer came in and asked for a wine that was rated 85? In my eleven years maybe like,......never but had they just listed tasting notes, sans score there may be people out there seeking that wine because it sounded good to them.
The sexiest thing about taste is we all have it and it is all so different. What if we had to sell like oranges or something....they all taste nice and there may be subtle differences but in the end it is still an orange! We get to sell wine, challenge ourselves to think outside our own palates and find something for each customer in an effort to please them, take their meal to that, "next level" or inspire their thirst for more.
Who the hell am I to tell someone that the wine they love is a 60 point, (to my palate) wine? If it moves you, makes you laugh or just gives you a warm fuzzy when you are drinking it then it is a great wine worthy of 100 points on your palate scale.

Nancy Deprez said...


Agree with you Samantha that the numbers are meaningless. The tasting notes have way more meaning. However, I guess for the novice, the numbers have a lot of appeal. After the initial appeal, there's nothing interesting about the numbers. It's like if we were rating guys or girls we are dating - "So, was he/she a 10?" What does that mean? Not much. Just some societally accepted NUMBER.

There are many folks who support the no-numbers system. They are more the folks who really have a love and passion for wine, who want to take the time to delve into it. Perhaps those who like the numbers just want a shortcut to happiness. "Just give me a 100-point answer to my problems, please! Tell me what job/spouse/house/wardrobe/music collection/portfolio I should have that will guarantee me happiness. I'll take that one, thanks."

Samantha Dugan said...


Nicely said!