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October 19, 2004

Holy Jesus Juice by the bottle

From time to time I get to thinking…I know, thinking is a dangerous things, but I fall prey from time to time. So this morning I got to thinking about the whole ‘Swallow, don’t Spit’ thing, which lead me to thinking about drinking wine, which lead to thinking about wine in general. And then I thought: Where the hell do they get the wine for communion!!?? I mean, really, does the priest just run down to the local 7/11 on his way to mass on Sunday? While out dining does a priest come across a rather good vintage and think, “Hey, that would make a good Jesus. It has nice body!” Is it ok to use any type of wine for Christ sake or does the Blood of Christ have to be of a certain grape. Who decides? Can I wine be blended and if so with whom does it get blended….St. John? St. Mary Magdalene? One of the many patron saints of wine-growers ? How much should one spend on a bottle of Jesus Juice? Does Boone’s Farm make a Christ Blend?
Well I did a little research and found that Christ Blood cannot be found at your local discount wine's here!!! Thank God we don’t have to see the labels as they would scare the hell out of anyone… Anyone wanna come over for a little ‘Swallow, don’t Spit’ with Jesus and me? Oh, and case you are wondering how to dispense of Christ, check this out ! Now that’s what I call Fast Food for Christ sake!

I really need to get out of the house more, or not be left alone for so long!!

October 06, 2004

Sideways: a wine movie

This sounds really interesting, but so often I find wine movies really tannic.

We should do a "Cinema Don't Spit" when this comes out!

August 25, 2004

Forget Spit and Swallow....Just Breathe

With all the fuss of scent and bouquet of wines, with the chance of bruising your vodka, and the damning offense of not warming your cognac properly, you would of thought that someone would have thought of vaporizing alcohol sooner. Now a British company has done just that. The machine that converts alcohol into breathable mist, the one that supposedly creates a low-calorie, hangover-free buzz, is apparently perfectly legal, according to state officials. AWOL, or Alcohol WithOut Liquid, has hit our shores. Well chock another one up for the British invasion, and just when I was getting used to Snorts.

June 04, 2004

Sofia Coppola in a can

That's right, Coppola vineyards is offering a "Sofia blanc de blancs" champagne (er, sparkling wine, pace the French) in 187 ml cans, with a straw attached, to make champagn more palatable and convenient for younger drinkers. I actually think it's a great idea, especially if it tastes decent. Meg and David's visit left me with a greater appreciation of champagne... having a few of these cans around could be a good way to have that impromptu celebration when you don't want to open a whole bottle of champy.

December 17, 2003

Food and Wine: Le Divorce

Slate 's Mike Steinberger has a great article on how parallel trends in food and wine (toward a certain level of "irrational exuberance") create a collision at the table. His well-argued thesis is that more aggressive tastes are harder than ever to pair. It's hard to disagree, but then again it's also hard to get to riled up about it... does that make me a Philistine?

October 21, 2003

World peace at hand

As many of you who know me are aware, I believe that world peace can only really ever be achieved by the careful use of either pork or alcohol. The alcohol is easy. Get everyone really drunk and either they'll get it all out in a nice, healthy, barroom brawl, or they'll all just pass out and feel stupid the next day for having kissed a dozen rugby players and a couple of women the night before.

The pork thing is pretty easy to figure out too, though. Think about it. Most of the major world conflicts are between non-pork eating cultures. India and Pakistan. Iran and Iraq. Isreal and the Palestinians. Etc. I mean, you don't really see a whole lot of Italians and Spanish going at each other, do you? And yet you do see a whole lot of Italians and Spanish sitting around drinking wine and munching on excellent ham. So there you go. Anyway, the secret to world peace, I'm ever more convinced, is a big old pig roast. Just think about it. Get all these bigwig muckety-mucks down to W's ranch for some good beer and a barely solid pig that's been slowly turning on a spit for a few days over a low fire...The thing is, after something like that, you're incapable of not loving your fellow man. I just want, if W gets around to trying this little endeavor, to be given a share of that Nobel Peace Prize for having come up with this brilliant idea in the first place. In fact, I'd say let's just do it at my Pa's farm, but the whole secret service thing would probably make the horses nervous.

Anyway, in the same vein of the mutually enhancing properties of alcohol and pork, this editor dude named Josh Karpf has a description of his search for the perfect pork martini on his Web site

It's a brilliant idea, not too far from another porky endeavor Pete and Mike and I will make millions off of one of these days. But it's also such a hoot of a read. For example:

Tasting was overseen by a collection of sprightly, generic-yet-authentic Cole Porter oldies such as "Let's Do It," "I've Got You Under My Skin," and "Always True To You in My Fashion." Hot, salted Chinese "imitation" egg noodles and tap water were on hand to clear the palate. And there was even a lovely blond in the room: me.

The sweet dried pork Martini, despite the lack of apparent surface oil, coated the bottom of my upper lip with a tangy pork greasiness. I was casually impressed, though I began to worry about what the more visibly oily pork vodkas would later offer. The chilled Martini had a piggy bouquet beyond its plain pork-vodka aroma. Was that the endothermic effect of the chilled liquor alerting the nose, or the action of the herb-steeped vermouth? I sipped a little. No aftertaste or aftereffect beyond the expected tummy warmth. Little flavor at all, in fact. Dried meats would seem less than optimum.

The ground pork Martini's scent was powerful with essence of pork patty. This is not a cocktail for the pork Martini dilettante: Like specifically demanding from your bartender a "vodka Martini" instead of the understood default gin Martini, you'll have to specify the "pork patty Martini" instead of a vanilla version, and make sure he or she fries the pork just right, searing the surfaces, draining the fat, and not letting it burn while you chase Naomi or Leonardo into a restroom. Come back when it's mixed. Wow. This Martini packed a pork wallop. The aroma was overpowering, I have to admit. But that masked the oil; I saw the oil before, really, see my comments under "Transmogrification," supra, but I tasted no oil. I declaim this a Martini you will love or hate, no middle ground. You could get drunk on the bouquet alone, a secondary high. Your neighbor will notice -- and I mean your next-door neighbor, as you mix this at home, not the crackhead on the next barstool -- and ask "Hey, is that pork you're drinking?" "Yes!" you trumpet proudly. A great way to make new friends. Unless he or she is a vegetarian. But who wants a vegetarian friend?

You should, most definitely, take a look at the site too, if not to read the rest of the article, then at least to see the rather unnerving photos of the various pork martinis he tried.

And elsewhere on his site, Tales from the Coop, his take on meetings from the Park Slope Food Coop should appeal to those who've ever been on any sort of board that drove them crazy.

September 26, 2003

Recalling California wines

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who doesn't enjoy California wines... they are almost as overpriced and snobby as French wines and many are just as ill-mannered. Slate has a great piece on the increasing crisis in the California wine industry by columnist Mike Steinberger (whose observations I am really coming to enjoy).

To quote Mike:

Americans are also expanding their wine horizons: Wine drinkers are often weaned on Napa merlots and Sonoma chardonnays but then become more adventurous, dabbling in Loire whites, Rhone reds, and other imports. Many find they prefer the foreign stuff, which usually has a lot more character and goes down better with meals. (California wines tend to be abusively oaked, high in alcohol, and low in acidity, making them distinctly food-unfriendly.)
But none of this adequately explains the contempt so many oenophiles now seem to feel for California wines. They aren't just shunning them; they are cursing them. At any gathering of wine fanatics, you're apt to find one person, and usually more, who will claim to have entirely sworn off California. The manager of a major East Coast wine store recently told me he no longer sets foot in his shop's California section unless a client can't be convinced to try something else.
In fact, California produces almost nothing worth drinking for under $15, a failure that borders on criminal. Finding something in this range that is merely inoffensive is a challenge, a point underscored by a recent feature in the Los Angeles Times. The paper gave four local sommeliers $300 each to come up with a list of good, fairly priced wines (fairly priced was loosely defined). Of the 39 wines selected, exactly one was from California. "There's no price-quality ratio in California anymore," David Rosoff of Opaline restaurant explained, "Great mistakes were made here …"

The biggest mistake is vanity: Most of the California producers with the means, skill, and desire to make good wine seem to measure success by the price tag on the bottle and would sooner flog pickles than "devalue" their brand by selling a $15 cabernet. You'd think one of California's star oenologists might be inspired by the examples in France of great winemakers—Aubert de Villaine and Dominique Lafon come to mind—who are happily slumming it on the side, producing terrific, inexpensive wines from satellite appellations. But apparently that isn't the California way.

OK, there are a few exceptions. Mike lists Ridge, which is generally great, and I am of course a huge fan of David Bruce (especially the luscious Petite Syrah that Bob and Terry cellar).

OK, now I'm ready to leave the office and drink. I'm going to try to stay for at least another hour.

August 27, 2003

Boxed wine consumption: A mark of sophistication?

Copied straight from my newsletter (a great marketing trend site):

Boxed Wine. One in five glasses of wine consumed by Americans comes from a box, reports Frank J. Prial in The New York Times. "We're third," he continues. "In Australia, boxes have half the wine market and in Norway...they claim a third." In Britain, "the market for boxed wine is growing twice as fast as that for bottled wine." Ryan Sproul, who markets a three-liter, Napa Valley 2001 Chardonnay called Black Box, says boxed wine is growing in popularity "because consumers have come to realize that the wine is more important than the packaging." The quality of the wine inside does count, of course -- Black Box actually "won a silver medal in a competition sponsored by The San Francisco Chronicle."

The truly surprising thing here, however, is that boxes make great wine vessels. That's because the "triple-layer clear-plastic...bag that holds the wine" inside the box is airtight. The bag contracts as the wine is dispensed, keeping remaining wine in "perfect condition, for a surprisingly long time." It's an innovation claimed by the Australians, which they say dates back 30 years. It is most associated in America with cheap, sweet wines, sold mostly in "supermarkets and working-class liquor stores." The typical American box of wine, marketed by vintners such as Almaden and Franzia, holds five-liters and sells for "$8 to $12 , or $1.35 to $1.75 a bottle."

Labels like Black Box, however, are selling for 25 bucks a box. Australia's BRL Hardy has a line of chardonnay, shiraz and merlot priced at $16. A "magnum-size, organic bag-in-the-box wine called Our Daily Red," actually depends on boxing -- because it contains no sulfites it "soon becomes unstable in an opened bottle." In London, "a recent tasting...featured 30 bag-in-the-box wines, all of them serious entries from France, Spain and Italy." Mr. Prial concludes: "We Americans are still pretty insecure when it comes to wine. We still place undue importance on the bottles, labels and corkscrews. But, as the figures show, we're changing."

July 23, 2003

F*** the Two-Buck Chuck, says Slate

So after Mike Steinberger, writing in Slate's new wine column, trashes Trader Joe's "Two Buck Chuck," he goes on to list some inexpensive greats that I've mostly not tried. While calling Salice Salentino "the world's greatest pizza wine" could ignite quite a discussion, I can back him up so far as to say it's quite nice with a good gourmet pie. But his apparent fascination with French wines is itself an impediment to finding great cheap wines. By my informal calculation, France's brand equity in the wine world exacts a 20%-40% premium over, say, an Australian wine of similar quality. Plus, you know, dealing with the French still gives me a bit of a bad taste despite the fact that they were (I admit it) basically right about all that war stuff earlier this year.

June 19, 2003

We are the trend

A good article on interest in wine among younger consumers from the Kansas City Star.

Interesting tidbit:

The Scarborough report said not only are young adults buying more wine, but they are willing to pay more for it. Wine consumers ages 21 to 24 are twice as likely than the average purchaser to spend $20 or more on a bottle of wine, the study stated. Those ages 23 to 34 are 76 percent more likely to pay for a high-end wine, while people older than age 65 are 74 percent less likely to pay top dollar, the study suggested.
Champagne purchases are more common among the 21-to-24 crowd.
Johnson said young drinkers also are risky in their wine experiences. They will opt for a bottle instead of buying by the glass, she said.

May 22, 2003

I mean, sure I like soft-shelled crabs

But I've sort of got my doubts about eating scorpion or drinking its nectar. Or am I just too picky an eater (and drinker)?

April 24, 2003

Target market

Hey, we SDSers are apparently at the forefront of a new wine trend. That, or we're the unwitting dupes of clever marketing. Yeah, the wine drinker of the 21st century, as envisioned by today's wine makers and described in today's Wall Street Journal (sorry, you'll need a subscription to actually read this article, but I've saved a copy of it if anyone is interested), is hip, under 35, and willing to pay more than their older, wiser parents for some fermented grape. Well, yeah, so there's a $12 a bottle limit for SDS, but my older and (arguably) wiser father--who is an elitist in his own right, but definitely not in wine consumption--defines "expensive" wine as any juice that requires an implement other than one's bare hand and a paper bag to consume, so in that we're definitely upping the ante on defining an affordable bottle.

Also, according to this article, it seems to be the British and the Australians who are pushing the trend toward marketing wines to a younger crowd. This, of course, leaves me suspicious of the Aussie product manager in our midst who has done so much to introduce at least one cohort of young Seattle imbibers to the vast array of Southeast Australian shirazes.

Well, my concerns that David is a spy for the wine marketing industry aside, it would appear that in addition to drinking more and more expensive wines than our forebears, we junior vinophiles are also eschewing the formality generally associated with wine tasting and consumption. "Other wine groups are eschewing the formal sit-down dinners that have long been the mainstay of building wine cachet and instead staging "wine raves," as well as tastings in trendy nightclubs and bars." Yes, groups such as Wine Brats, a much less evocatively titled wine club than ours, that do something mixing wine tasting with music and fashion are suddenly all the rage.

With apologies to Pete, I'm going to guess that these little wine raves involve quite a bit of swallowing and very little spitting, as well they should. Of course, blogging the tasting process puts us into a whole new realm of bringing elitism and drinking into the brave new world that the marketing department at Jacob's Creek is opening up before us.

Oh, and before I forget! Our ringmaster Jay tasked me earlier this week with creating some sort of rating system for the wines we'll be tasting. I'll solicit comments and objections on the following scoring categories:

  • I should bring this to the next dinner at 843, 233, or 1321.
  • I should bring this to the next dinner party (anywhere else) I'm invited to.
  • I'll keep a bottle of this around for some unexpected company.
  • I'll keep a bottle of this around for pizza and a movie night.
  • I guess Paulette's father would probably drink it.
  • I don't think even Paulette's father could hold this down.

Bash away, my dears.

April 23, 2003

"Cellar Marketing LLC"

The CEO of a new client is also working on as something of a hobby. It is not a slick site like but I like the approach. Especially interesting is the "wine-tasting assistant" accessible by the left nav; it actually brought up some wines I've enjoyed. As we all look for the wines that will kick ass in SDS competition, this may be a good resource.

April 09, 2003

"Why wine costs what it does"

The NYT has an article this morning with the very straightforward headline Why Wine Costs What It Does. I've obviously been thinking about this a lot as I wonder just how much our little wine club might costs.

To that end, here is a good guideline:

Quality and perception are hard to separate. "You can get a really great bottle of wine for $40," Mr. Motto said. "Beyond that, it's something that depends on how discriminating you are, how important it is to your life, how much you can afford."

I'm going to suggest that we focus on wines under $20, and maybe do an occassional "splurge night" where we spend up to $40. Does that sound reasonable, or is all of this just completely outrageous in a world where children are starving?

April 08, 2003

Leading us to wine, and making us drink

Yes, Paulette let the cat out of the erstwhile bag with her mention of "Swallow Don't Spit," our new wine club. Our motto: "Tastes good going down." Whatever serious oenophiles suggest, we think it would be a sin just to taste and wine and then spit it out. To the dregs, baby! And then there's the bad-taste joy of the double entrendre--we can never pass that up.

It turns out that a lot of Americans do pass up the joy of the grape. I always knew we Yanks were behind the game, but until today I did not know how far. My new boss handed me a copy of Wine Enthusiast today, to (I'm not joking) research a possible pitch to a major wine and spirits conglomerate, and you can imagine my surprise to read in this article that there are only 19 million US once-a-week-plus wine drinkers. Per capita consumption is only 10 bottles a year, compared with 23 in the UK and 76 in France. Understandably, these businesses consider the US a major growth market, if only they can unleash some fairly seismic cultural shifts in our appreciation of that most varied and storied of all the alcohols (taking a page, no doubt, from the astounding creation of the "A Diamond is Forever" myth in the 1930s). [Thanks to David for the Atlantic link.]

It's a great article about the ways that winemakers have gotten savvy to branding as the best way to increase consumption and revenues. One of the biggest needs is to make wine more approachable to us Americans, given our natively democratic mistrust of frequently effette wine culture. (Translation: we're provincial hicks scared of foreign words.) One expert quoted says that US consumers want wine to be "fun, to be approachable, less of an intimidating beverage."

We at Swallow Don't Spit aren't intimidated by much of anything, and consider pretty much anything this side of Finnegan's Wake as approachable, but we will cop to wanting to up the fun factor. This will be no Frazier-esque Seattle salon des vins. We are re-writing the rules, and working on that per capita consumption at the same time. Maybe we can even turn our approach into a profitable marketing strategy for Wine Inc.

So when IS this first bacchanal going to happen? Paulette and I will have to take this one offline and figure something out. We'll keep you posted.