Sunday, November 30, 2008


What has always fascinated me is how wine "critics" go about assessing the so-called quality of a wine. There is the ever-popular, often-vilified 100-point system, which really isn't a 100-point system, but a 50-point system, as well as the 20-point system, which is usually employed at Wine Festivals like our local Cincinnati International Wine Festival (of which I have been a judge the past two years). To employ one of those scales is in a lot of ways, taking both the joy and the artistic expression of the wines. Granted, there is a lot of plonk out there (as evident I found during my last two stints at the CIWF), but ultimately, every winemaker is after some sort of expression, much like a poet, a songwriter, a painter, or any other type of artist.

The difference between rating wines and assessing their market appeal are two entirely different animals, if only in the fact that you have to look at the wine's QPR (quality-price ratio) and any other nuances that might be appealing to consumers - like limited availability or direct import or regionality, there are a host of variables.

Buying by the numbers is almost an inherent indication that the buyer (for a wine store, restaurant, etc.) is without any real palate or knowledge of their own. It's something I have learned over the years, thanks in large part to a great many individuals I have come to respect and admire - not only for their palates, but for their passion and desire for this business and for wine itself. My buddy Eric Jerardi was one who I feel unintentionally coerced me into exploring my own palate as I was building my first wine list at Cafe Boulevard in Dayton, Ohio (while I was bar manager there). People like Mary Kay at The Winds in Yellow Springs and the late, great Doug Simon of Arrow Wine & Spirits, who had a fairly innovative approach to how they selected wines for their respective stores. So many people I have met and worked either for or with over the years, have contributed to my own wine education, and I continue to learn each day.

Yet it is ironically, the artist in me that seeks out the unique, artistic expression in a wine before I really consider it for the store. As far as the scores go, I am unimpressed. The worst thing a winemaker or an importer can do when pitching a wine to me is bringing up the scores it received FIRST. Right there, that is a tell that the wine sucks and they can't sell it. A wine should be something that is almost too intangible to describe YET THEY FIND A WAY ANYWAY.

A great example is the first time I tried Verite - a big boy Sonoma blend from wine mastermind Jess Jackson. I was introduced to the first vintage - the 1998 - by way of an old friend, Rich Collins, who was working for Corterra Brands (the brokerage representing Verite, as well as Stonestreet, Cambria, and others - it's now called Majestic Wines). Sitting in the store with him and the brand manager - whose name escapes me right now - and tasting the wine, there wasn't a great deal of bantering. No need - the wine was ethereal. I actually told him it reminded me of a poem I continue to herald as one of my faves, by Pablo Neruda, called "Body of a Woman." One of the most sensuous works of the modern era, and the poem was pretty seductive too.

Years later, I was able to revisit the wine upon my visit to the winery with my wife. At this point, the wine was 8 years old. And it was even more remarkable than when I first tasted it. It literally stopped time.

Granted, this is a pretty exaggerated example, but you get the point. What speaks to me as a buyer is what's in the bottle. An Aussie blend that rocks, and it's under $10 - bring it on! A Bordeaux Superieur from a great vintage that drinks like a classified growth, and I can sell it for under $20. Rock on!

The point is that while everyone is up-in-arms over Wine Spectator and Robert Parker, the crux of the matter is that these guys are no different in being able to assess the quality of a wine than YOU are. Sure they have their magazines and their subscribers, but in the end, it's all about YOU. They could just as easily score Chateau Whatsits 2008 a 100-point wine, but you could buy it, try it, and think it positively sucks. That's just the way it is - taste is subjective. Only yours counts in the end.

And they don't really want you to realize that. Once you do, then you won't give a crap about anything they say.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


The grade: OUTSTANDING. The Mojo: The Domaine Lafage Cote Est 2006 ($10.59) is a blend of Chardonnay and Viognier, and comes to us from the coastal regions of Southern France. It has a surprisingly medium-bodied complexity with dense stone fruit flavors and aromas, possessing hints of white flowers, mineral and slight creamy textures. Its smooth, plush mouthfeel makes it an enticing drink, perfect for fish, chicken or poultry.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


The Grade: AMAZING. The Mojo: Wow! I love Cabernet Franc. So I’ve always been fascinated with the Wit’s End Procrastinator 2006 ($19.69) from McLaren Vale in Australia a very intriguing drink. Here you have a Cab Franc that is surprisingly translucent in color, garnet with a pinkish hue. Yet on the palate, dried cherries, violet, red raspberries, mineral, cedar, tobacco and espresso wash over the tongue in intermittent tones, mingling into a real red wine lover’s complexity. There is a lot of depth and character here, and the lingering cherry and spice finish is quite gratifying. Definitely something off the beaten path for you to try.


We at Liquor Direct would just like to take a few moments and wish everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving today. In the rushing around, trying to get this wine or that turkey, or pick up that centerpiece, or those relatives at the airport, it's easy to forget that today is about family and friends getting together to share all that they are thankful for in this world.

And even though the economy is pretty crappy, and the weather may or may not be crappy, and the Thanksgiving dinner might be crappy, it doesn't mean that the getting-together has to be crappy.
Know what I'm saying?

Happy holidays, and remember, slow down, they'll be leftovers tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The Grade: AMAZING. The Mojo: Damn! This is a juicy beast! Consider the Two Angels Divinity 2006 ($22.98) Napa Valley’s answer to a Chateauneuf du Pape. This sexy blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah is dark in color, very fragrant in the nose with expressive notes of red flowers, red and black berry fruit and dark spices, and shows of a supple, peppery blackberry compote with delightful acidity. The finish is long and lingering, leaving one with the flavor of sun-ripened blackberries for what seems forever. Give this one a try… soon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I am not a real fan of network TV anymore. All the shows that I get into (aside from House) are always teetering on the brink of extinction (Jericho anyone? And now My Own Worst Enemy?). The shows that remain on the air (insert ANY reality show here) pretty much suck. So whenever I hear the phrase SEASON FINALE, I greet it with a modicum of skepticism.

However, in a completely different use of the phrase, our own wine tasting season finale (which comes before a 5 week hiatus, allowing us to regroup during the silly season) is this coming weekend (for all those still in shock from Turkey-and-in-laws OD).

This weekend, our two-part tasting will feature a total of 12 wines, 6 at each store, and presented in a sort-of continuous decadence - all part of our way of thanking all of our customers for a great year. This tradition was begun the year we began our tastings, 3 years ago (or was it 4?) and we always try to outdo ourselves (I am having a hard time reaching my back for self-congratulatory backpatting, so could you do it for me?).

The lineup is as follows:

Part 1 - Marc Herbert Brut Selection NV, Mischief & Mayhem Chablis 2006, Thelema Chardonnay 2006, Mirabile Viognier 2006, P. Delesvaux Anjou Authentique 2005 and Lemelson Pinot Noir Thea's Selection 2006.

Part 2 - Remirez de Ganuza Rioja 2002, Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir Charles Vineyard 2006, Mirabile Tannat 2005, Mollydooker Shiraz Blue Eyed Boy 2007, Chateau Monbousquet St.-Emilion 2003 and Pedestal Merlot 2005.

Friday night, part 1 will be on tap at our Covington store and part 2 at Fort Thomas. Saturday afternoon will be the reverse.
As with all of our tastings, there is no charge whatsoever. So please, don't be shy, come on in, and tell a few dozen of your friends too.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008


The Grade: AMAZING. The Mojo: I am always intrigued by anything imported by Terry Thiese, yet I’ve shied away from his Austrian wines simply because they (Austrian wines) are a tough sell. Well, this time I bit the bullet and ordered the Heidi Schrock Muscat 2007 ($25.98), which really isn’t a Muscat at all, but a proprietary blend of 40% Gelber Muskateller, 40% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Ottonel. The nose on this wine is really cool, with a spicy papaya/pineapple/lime quality matched up with honeysuckle and orange blossom. There are notes of wet stone and Chinese Five Spice in there as well, and I haven’t even tasted the stuff yet! On the palate, there are almost-creamy tones of citrus, pickled ginger, white peach, apricot and orange zest, and even a saltiness that is pretty crazy. This is a very complex, very intricate wine from start-to-finish. And I’d even venture to pair it with Thanksgiving. All I can say is “Wow!”

Sunday, November 23, 2008


So in thinking ahead for Thanksgiving, I am sitting at my home tasting table, with new kitten Wiley playing with the newly peeled capsule off one of the wines, and sampling three Chenin Blancs, a grape perfectly suited for Thanksgiving. I've pulled 2 South African Chenin Blancs (the Simonsig 2007 and Kanu 2007) and one from the Loire Valley (the Michel Picard Vouvray):

The Grade: OUTSTANDING. The Mojo: The Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2007 ($11.98) is quite fragrant in the glass, possessing hints of mineral, nutmeg and starfruit in the nose. Its light-to-medium bodied, with honeydew melon, Anjou pear and lime characters, propped up by wet stone and balanced acidity. It’s been a few vintages since I last had this wine, and I was not disappointed. This white wine is really great for the price, and would lend itself well to your Thanksgiving feast.


The Grade: AMAZING. The Mojo: I have always been very surprised by the quality of wines from Kanu, and the Kanu Chenin Blanc 2007 ($8.99) continues the trend. There are a lot of mineral, lime and melon notes in the nose, with hints of guava, kiwi, apple and ginger. The light, delicate body of this wine is deceptive; there is a lot of complexity here, especially for under $10 a bottle. This wine really shows off just what the Chenin Blanc grape is capable of without costing an arm-and-a-leg.


The Grade: OUTSTANDING. The Mojo: The Michel Picard Vouvray 2006 ($10.98) is a subtle, light-bodied and fruit-driven Chenin Blanc from the Loire that is sure to satisfy your need for a white wine this time of year. Ideal for fish, chicken and pork dishes – should actually do well with sauerkraut – the stone fruit, melon and lime notes intermingle with slight hints of nutmeg, mineral and white flowers. The finish is slightly sweet, giving it an almost-marmalade texture on the palate, and continues for close to a minute. A great buy!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


The Grade: AMAZING. The Mojo: I continue to internally thank Jo Diaz of Juicy Tales for prodding me along on my re-exploration of Petite Sirah, and here I am with one of the benchmarks in the wine business for PS – the Foppiano Petite Sirah 2004 ($17.98). I actually just met with Louis Foppiano last month, who was gracious and extremely patient for meeting myself (along with Jesse and Shannon) in our fast-paced, labyrinthine Covington store. This stunning red is deep, rich and seductive, on both the nose and palate, with chewy tannins, juicy blackberry and blueberry fruit, rich baking spices and touches of smoky vanillin oak. There is a lot going on in this wine. And for those of you who have never tasted a Petite Sirah, this is a fantastic initiation to the grape.

Friday, November 21, 2008


It seems awfully early to reach this point this year but already I am bleary eyed and barking mad. I realize that most of the economic situation is bordering on kamikaze but here in the wine and spirits world, there's a hustle and a bustle that are dizzying to the senses. It's rough keeping up, though I fight for that "eye of the storm" every day. Thank God for my own personal Wonder Twins (Jesse and Shannon).

Yet like the outside world, the wine and spirits world is very dynamic, always ebbing and flowing like a high rising river and levees breaking on all sides.

But I digress.

The holidays (the span between Thanksgiving and Christmas) is the busiest time in the retail world, though thanks to the current economic crises, our counterparts in other aspects of retail will arguably not fair so well. In sad economic times, we seem to want to drink more, so at least there is that. But the stress levels seem to go up, even as our stores do well. Just the nature of the beast I guess.

I hope that you will all join me in being thankful for what we have (though it gets smaller and shabbier each day) and appreciate all that's good in this world. And as for the bad, screw 'em!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


The Grade: OUTSTANDING. The Mojo: The Capestrano Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2006 ($10.59), this truly wonderful value red from the Abruzzo region of Italy is strangely difficult to get a hold of, but nonetheless, a great wine to jump on when it comes around. Light-to-medium bodied, with mild tannins and juicy red berry fruit flavors, this Montepulciano is highlighted with hints of spice box, fresh herbs and tobacco. If you're going Italian for Thankgiving, here's your huckleberry, folks.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


The Grade: OUTSTANDING. The Mojo: The Villa Brondello Primitivo 2007 ($7.98 special) is a red wine I’ve been after for a couple of vintages now but have always been a bit too late. Here’s a spectacular value in Italian red, medium-bodied, with slight spicy red and black fruit flavors, hints of earth and game, and a finish that would lend itself well to Mediterranean or Italian cuisine. It’s lower alcohol (around 13%) is relatively tame compared to its California Zin brethren, and exudes a dark, sexy mystique without being too hulking. A great bottle of wine for the price.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What a Cheesey Line!

Ah yes, cheese. My third favorite food group, just behind filet mignon and lasagna. I have been a cheese lover for quite some time, ranging from string cheese to 4 year old cave aged Gouda. Cheese is so wide ranging in flavors, types, and styles that it reminds me of wine, which is maybe why they pair so well together. My job as the cheese buyer for Liquor Direct is to sort through the multitude of cheeses and find the best ones for the price and bring them in for you to enjoy.

One of our top priorities is making sure that these cheeses can be paired up with some great wines. Which brings us to the main question on every one's minds. Which cheese pairs with what wine. With holiday parties in full swing I am going to give some basic guidelines for cheese and wine pairings. First, hard cheeses will go with big wines, usually red. For example hard cheeses like Parmesan or aged Cheddars have much more body and texture than a soft cheese and therefore need a wine which has some substance to it. Try pairing a nice aged white cheddar with a hearty red zin such as our Black Diamond 2 year white cheddar ($5.99)with the Castle Rock Dry Creek Zinfandel ($10.59). Second, Soft cheese such as Brie or Camembert have very delicate flavors and soft creamy textures. You will need to pair these cheeses with light bodied white wines or sparkling wines. A nice creamy Brie will will tone down the acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Gris.

Third, sharp or tangy cheeses such as goat cheese or Port Salut need a wine that has a creamy or sweet taste to balance out the acidity of the cheese like Chardonnay or Riesling. For example, our Soignon plain Couturier goat cheese ($4.99) with Dr. Loosen Dr. L Riesling. ($10.59) Lastly, dessert wines need cheeses that can stand up to the sweetness and higher alcohol. An easy surefire hit is to pair any port with a Blue Stilton or creamy blue cheese. The sharp acidic tang of a blue cheese brings out the sweet fruit and nutty flavors of a port.

Don't forget each month to pick up our Cheese of the Month. Each month I select a new cheese to feature and its always under $5 a piece. Its a great way to try some new cheeses and styles of cheese from all over the globe. And for your, convienece all of our cheeses include a taste description and wine pairing on every price sign. Please feel free to come in and ask me or any of our wine staff about our cheeses, and for some wine pairing suggestions.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Today, Wine Spectator dropped their 2008 Top 100 Wines of the Year list on their Web site, at precisely 10 am Eastern Standard Time. As with every year that they do this, my day gets thrown into chaos and big clumps of my hair is removed forcibly while I scream inward at the wine buying gods, knowing full well that the majority of the list are wines that have already sold out. Yea! I can’t wait to explain umpteen times to my customers that those wines are already gone.

The mad dash to acquire as many as you can reminds me of an old movie from the late-seventies, early-eighties called “Scavenger Hunt.” Some rich guy dies. Assembles just about anyone he has ever known, sired, slept with, or come into contact with for a friendly game of Scavenger Hunt, winner gets his fortune. Hilarity ensues. Same effect here: all us wine buyers out there scramble around to clean up the scraps of wines left to sell of this list and whoever gets the most obviously gets increased business.

I am a bigger fan of the Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Singers of All-Time (although Steve Tyler being beaten out by Christina Aguilera and Steve Perry is pretty crazy).

Out of the 100 wines listed, one that I was shocked not to see was the Bodegas Borsao Crianza 2005 ($14.98, 92 WS). I wasn’t really sure why, I mean, this is a helluva wine at a helluva price with an obviously fantastic score. Better than most on the list. Yet it’s not there. Go figure.

Wines that we managed to get a good supply of are the Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel 2007 (#10), Bodegas Colome Malbec 2006 (#38), Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (#40 – someone from there is pleasuring Marvin Shanken on a regular basis I am certain of it!), Leasingham Magnus Riesling 2007 (#44), Bodegas Sierra Cantabria Crianza 2004 (#71) and Bodegas Muga Rioja Reserva 2004 (#65).

All-in-all, I have so far managed to pull together 18 of the 100 wines on that list. Whether that is respectable or not, I don’t know. But i would love to hear your thoughts on this list.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


THE GRADE: Amazing. THE MOJO: So this weekend, we poured the Orin Swift The Prisoner 2007 ($32.99) at our Proprietary Wines tastings, and as expected, it went over extremely well. Always a bit difficult to get, this Napa Valley cult producer demonstrates the rich, juicy prowess of Zinfandel in this Zin-dominant blend. At 15.2% alcohol, you’d expect the wine to taste hot, but with the additions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Charbono and Grenache, this multi-layered fruit monster actually demonstrates a grace that is missing in a lot of California wines. Though its sweet black fruit aromas and flavors are hedonistic, and don’t get me wrong, this IS a fruit bomb wine, there is surprising acidity and balance that you wouldn’t really expect. There is a lot of concentration and depth here, and I am sure that a few years in the cellar would only give it more luxuriousness on the palate.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Periodically, our main wine guy, Alfonse will post his feature selections in the store (though he seems afraid of anything other than a pen). After much plying, I managed to convince him to type up his latest ALIEN pics (if anyone remembers the acid-trip TV show ALF, then you get his alien connection):

1) Rive Prosecco, Italy $12.98, special. Perfect sparkler to start a holiday evening.... or any evening for that matter. Try with antipasta or prosciutto with melon. 2) Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier, USA $11.98 special. Soft and approachable white blend. Dry with apple and orange rind notes. Tropical with lemon zest and clean acidity. Yummy. Perfect for chilean sea bass. 3) La Crema Pinot Noir, USA $20.99 special. The Perfect complement to holiday fare! From turkey to all you can eat fried chicken. Lush with raspberry and strawberry notes. Perfect acidity and cinnamon spice on the long expressive finish. 4) Hope Shiraz, Australia $10.99 special. Explodes with black and red berries. Pepper and spice box in the mid body pervades. Finishes with dusty tannins and light vanilla notes. A ribeye steak would pair nicely with Hope.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Perfect Pitch Pinot

Isn’t it interesting that cool weather and a cool climate pinot noir can actually make for one warm evening?

This was exactly the formula for one of our bi-annual wine dinners, which included some LD staff and some Reps in the biz. The weather was cool, the wine came from someplace even cooler, but the dinner table was warm and aglow with candles and rather lively chatter.

We sampled a truly excellent pinot, Foley Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2005. We’ve carried this one before, but I had never had the opportunity to try it. I was at first struck with the nose, that lightness of scent and a slight woodsiness. The palate was the perfect pitch: somewhere in between medium and full-bodied, with just the right amount of oak and fruit. Delicious. It even went well with the beef tenderloin and pumpkin soup that was served. I’m sure it would be a great match with turkey as well for the upcoming stuff-your-face-day!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Every year, around this time, I get in a decent amount of Tait’s whimsically named The Ball Buster. This year was no different, and the Ball Buster 2007 ($19.99) arrived this past week, rather stealthly I might add. Most of the time, we receive the wine right after a Parker review, whose Aussie critic usually doles out a robust 90 or above and lavishes it with lengthy prose. This year, no Parker review – yet, so time will tell if this year’s model will continue as a Parker darling.

I am personally not a big fan of Aussie wines, though that is not to say I don’t like them. On the contrary, when chowing down to a big steak dinner, or serving up some Mandarin Orange Beef take out from P.F. Chang’s, dial me up a nice big Barossa fruit bomb. But for the most part, I like a wine that is a bit drier, more subtle, with distinguishable fruit character and some minerality to boot.

So I was more than a bit surprised when I spied Stephen Tanzer’s score of 90 points, and a pretty nice critique as well. Tanzer doesn’t give out 90s too easily, and especially for Australia. I feel a kindred palate to Tanzer, leaning more toward Bordeaux, Rhone, and most European wines.

I will have to say that The Tait Ball Buster 2007 is actually a nice, medium-to-full bodied red blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it shows off multilayered red fruit and spice character, with a black pepper, licorice and cedar backdrop that leads into medium tannins and a plush, pleasant finish. If anything this year, it’s something of a misnomer.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


So I finally got around to Wine Blogging Wednesday, and I gotta thank Joe Roberts of 1 Wine Dude for the idea, because, thanks also to Tim Lemke (of Cheap Wine Ratings), my “baked goods” section of the store was pretty anemic. Tim had emailed me a question concerning ideas for his piece for WBW. I went out and looked at my shelves, and I had TWO, count ‘em, TWO Madeiras. Wow! I thought. This is pathetic.

After basically telling Tim I didn’t really have much, but suggesting a few things to look for (basically telling him to shop at a competitor – OMG!), I decided to liven up, not only my Madeira section, but the dessert section as well.

And in so doing, I chose my wine to write about for WBW: The Blandy’s Almada 5 Year Madeira ($16.98, 500 ml), a renegade Madeira of sorts, created by the blending of both Bual and Malmsey (Malvasia) grapes - something unheard of until 2002.

The wine undergoes fermentation in stainless steel tanks, followed by fortification with grape brandy. From there, it sees 5 years in American oak barrels, all while going through the old maderization (where wines are intentionally exposed to oxygen and heat) process called “Canteiro.” This process sees the barrels stored in the lofts of the aging lodges, without any climate control. Over the years, the barrels are rotated to the middle floors, and inevitably to the ground floors, where it is eventually blended and bottled.

The end result is a totally unconventional wine, dried apricots, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg and elements of toasted oak and toffee abound in both the aromas and flavors. It is rich and lusciously textured, yet possessing slight hints of acidity for a balanced wine that would pair well with baked tarts, roasted almonds or bitter chocolates.

The Blandy’s Alvada 5 Year is a terrific introduction to Madeira, and once you try, you too will be seduced by this unsung wine.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The countdown has begun – the Wine Spectator Top 100 is slowly being revealed, starting yesterday with the #9 and #10 wines unveiled, and today, #s 7 & 8. Alas, as it is every year, my teeth begin to grind a bit harder, and I’m pulling more and more clumps of hair out of my scalp, the WS Top 100 list is truly THE bane of my existence as a buyer. Simply put, this list is simply a compilation of reviews and scores that have spanned the course of the magazine’s previous year’s worth of ratings, and many of these wines have already come and gone in the market. However, there are those wines that have just now been released, and it is those wines that we buyers clamor over each other, like rats in a tomb, trampling each other for the last bit of sustenance left behind.

Yet I digress. The real sadness this year comes from the #10 wine in the list – the Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel 2007 ($19.69 special). A month ago, when I was told that the state of KY’s allocation for the next 6 months was 108, I asked for a pallet – that 51% of the market share more-or-less. I’m not too greedy, but I was told that this was it until March. Suffice it to say I had a bit of foresight that even I couldn’t have lucked into on a normal day.

And there’s the rub. This is it. All that I have to sell my customers until it’s gone. And with my staff already huge Seghesio disciples, consider it GONE. So too, however, will be this wine under $20. Now that the big fat accolades have been heaped on this venerable Sonoma producer – already known for some of the best Sonoma Zins out there – the 2008 vintage will most definitely be over $30. I mean, the ego has been inflated, so surely the retail price will be as well. And access to this wine will be even more difficult, if not near impossible.

Yeah! So one could argue that while the WS Top 100 list is good for business, it’s bad for brands long-term, at least when it comes to affordability.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I get over to our Fort Thomas store the other morning to find a lengthy correspondence from Corey (our night manager there) to Sean (our store manager) regarding the new NOS energy drink. It was a laugh riot so I thought I’d share:

“Sean –

A few thoughts on our new energy drink, NOS:

1. Great packaging (the reason I tried it),
2. Tastes like amped-up Fresca,
3. REALLY hurts my stomach,
4. Makes my cheeks tingle (not really sure what that’s about)
5. Within 5 minutes my legs were, at the same time, a little numb and very twitchy,
6. I think it cleaned my teeth,
7. I can’t stop smiling,
8. 10 minutes in, and I am beginning to feel light-headed,
9. I think I am beginning to hate this drink
10. I think it has improved my hearing… I am listening to conversations across the parking lot,
11. It makes me want to talk like a gansta for some reason,
12. 20 minutes in now… serious lack of coordination, but I honestly believe that I could bench press a Buick,
13. We must never allow (name withheld) to consume this,
14. I think I am beginning to love this drink, but I am starting to become rather aggressive
15. I just threw up a little,
16. One hour later… I’m beginning concerned… I’ve now pee’d more than I’ve consumed,
17. One hour and 15 minutes… this little experiment is losing its entertainment factor,
18. Hour-and-a-half: Wow! The “crash” is of epic proportions. I find myself suddenly curious about heroin,
19. May the fleas of a thousand camels infect the nose hairs of the person responsible for bringing this stuff into our store,
20. I hate myself.”

I think this should serve as a lesson for those of us wanting a little pick-me-up a little faster than we should be allowed.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


So, today is my birthday - the big 42 - and though not a major milestone, I will have to confess something to all. From the time I was 11 years old, I have dreamt that I would not live passed my 41st birthday. Don't ask me why, call me ultraparanoid or something. But today comes as much as a surprise as it is a huge relief.

Anyway, while being extremely thankful that childhood dream never came true, I am still finding it in my being to be more than a bit envious of Mr. James Suckling over at Wine Spectator for tasting through a vertical of one of my favorite wines - Sassicaia. Now for those of you that don't know what that particular wine is, Sassicaia - the first Super Tuscan wine - comes from the coastal subregion of Bolgheri, and is made entirely of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The first vintage, released in 1968, ushered in a new time for Italian winemakers, and paved the way for both Piero and Lodovico Antinori (of Solaia and Ornellaia fame respectively).

Reading through Mr. Suckling's Sassicaia tasting notes, found at Wine Spectator, were making me drool something awful. I have only been fortunate enough to drink 2 vintages - the 1998 and 2000, both of which led me to believe that I had died and gone to Tuscany. (I have a bottle of 2004 that I haven't had the gumption to open yet). I agree with everything he said on the 1998, yet the 2000, from my recollection was that it was an incredible drink. Perhaps it was the setting, the people I drank it with, the food that was served up with it. I guess that makes all the difference in the world.

It would certainly be an honor and a privilege to drink Sassicaia with the owner and his family, and indeed it is a privilege drinking Sassicaia with anyone, but damn! That would be a helluva birthday present. Anyone wanna spring for airfare?

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Honestly, Sauvignon Blanc wasn;t ever mandated for a Summer only beverage, or I am positive the folks in Loire and Bordeaux would be extremely honked off. I've had this ongoing debate at the store on whether or not I should slow down on Sauvignon Blanc. Though I look at the sales figures, I would have to agree with the boss, but are those figures deceptive? If we had the same selection in the winter as we do in the summer, would the sales numbers be as reduced?

Hmm. Well, I do know that as Thanksgiving approaches, I would offer up Sauvignon Blanc as a reasonable alternative for those seeking white wines but not wanting a Riesling, Gewurtztraminer or some other "sweeter" wine. And those of us who still eat a lot of fish in the winter, a good ol' SB does the trick every time. Sushi, cajun, Thai, Indian, even my Mexican standby, Fish Tacos - all would make for good pairings.

So I thought I'd offer up a few Sauvignon Blancs for those still inclined to drink one of these tasty whites, even as the thermometer slides into the nether regions.

Murphy-Goode Sauvignon Blanc The Fume 2007 ($9.99). The Grade: Outstanding. The Mojo: One of the original Fume Blancs has opted out of the "white fog" moniker for telling us like it is. Here's a light, crisp Sauvignon Blanc reminiscent of a white Bordeaux, with lemon and herbaceous notes, and a hint of sweet grapefruit.

St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2007 ($16.98). The Grade: Amazing. The Mojo: Lemongrass, grapefruit and pineapple combine with hints of mineral and honeysuckle for an outstanding SB experience. Always one of my favorite SBs from California.
Huia Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2007 ($17.89). The Grade: Amazing. The Mojo: This SB has been one of my favorites from New Zealand. Light-to-medium bodied, this white shows off exuberant grapefruit, lemon and melon flavors, with a touch of guava, starfruit and mineral. It's pretty juicy, and with its lively acidity, lingers on the palate for quite some time.
Merlin-Cherrier Sancerre 2007 ($21.49). The Grade: Amazing. The Mojo: Ever since I met Roy Cloud from Vintage '59 Imports, everything I have tried from his book has been remarkable. Here's a textbook Sancerre, with lime and melon notes throughout, and a bracing acidity that gives this wine pleasingly tart fruit character all the way through the finish.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Tuesday night I watched history happen. Glued to my TV, I, along with the rest of the nation (well, half of it at least) finally had something to celebrate. And what better way to celebrate the future than with a bottle of Champagne!

But alas! I was watching the speeches all alone, which is hardly the proper environment to open up a bottle of bubbly. So I’m saving my celebrating for this weekend. Anyone else thinking of celebrating Obama’s victory, here are some of my favorite sparklers: (and just in time for the holidays!)

Gruet Brut ($14.99): This sparkler and Obama have something in common…both are loved in New Mexico! This almost spicy white is made in New Mexico and has a nice dry finish. A great deal at this price point.

Domaine Carneros Brut Rose ($31.98): My favorite sparkling wine on our shelves, this wine is feminine, delicate, and smells like roses. Dry, and extremely approachable, this wine is also made by a woman…I’m sure Hilary would endorse it.

Gobillard Brut Tradtion ($47.98): Who wouldn’t want to celebrate with a bottle of Dom Perignon? Instead, try this Champagne that’s more reasonably priced. Grown from the same vineyards as the prestigious brand, this champagne is even allowed to have the monk on the label. I wonder if Sarkozy sent Obama a bottle along with his congratulations letter?

Thursday, November 6, 2008


The Grade: OUTSTANDING. The Mojo: I have to admit that I found the first taste of this wine a bit weird. I was expecting this chocolate-covered boysenberry but found there to be some serious sun-dried tomato thing going on. I wasn't sure if it was actually off somehow. But after giving it a few minutes in the glass, all was well in PS land. The aromas morphed into a shadowy, red and black currant aroma mixed up with some black berry fruit and spice tones. On the palate, this was more of a kinder/gentler PS, expressing lots of elegance, rather than the usual dark, subversive stance most PS wines take. There was a lot of complexity, just a more refined, graceful demonstration of it. A really good PS, just a bit different than one would expect.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I am just blown away by the recent story I just read at Spectator online. It's nothing earthshattering mind you, just that one of the singers I idolized back in high school, and throughout most of my time as a wannabe singer myself, is making wine. Geoff Tate, frontman for Seattle-based metal band Queensryche, is teaming up with the husband-and-wife team at Three Rivers Winery to make a wine called, interestingly enough, Insania.

I first thought wine was cool when years ago, I read that Sammy Hagar was a huge collector, with a deep cellar of some 8,000 bottles. And that dude sang with Montrose! Then, as a big Tool fan (stop snickering you b-holes), I discovered that Maynard was not only a big wine geek (he even has an impressive vertical of Grange) but he is an aspiring winemaker (see Caduceus Vineyards and Arizona Stronghold Vineyards).

So Geoff Tate, the guy whose voice I really emulated back in the day, is at it too. It's pretty cool, but I wonder if it's an age thing. I mean, Hagar is up there, Maynard is in his 40s (like me) and Geoff is closing in on the big 5-0. I wonder what the attraction is for rock singers (Vince Neil has his own wine too) and wine. Maybe it's because the girls like wine. I don't know. I do know that Three Rivers is no slouch in the biz. They make some pretty nice reds up there in WA. Maybe that's what Geoff meant by the song "I Dream in Infrared." (Yeah, that's probably a stretch.)

It's funny how even now, wine can conjure up memories of standing in the middle of my room, "training" myself to sing along with "Take Hold of the Flame," or actually covering "Jet City Woman" in my cover band, Perfect Tommy (which is still going strong down in North Carolina in one of its newest incarnations). Although I think the wine that really makes me remember all of that stuff is beer.

More power to ya, Geoff. Tomorrow might find me listening to Rage for Order and knocking back some Washington State wine (like maybe an Andrew Will or L'Ecole red). As for all you metalheads, past and present, check out Spectator's wine talk with Geoff Tate.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Election Day, everyone - are you voting? Well, one thing I don't have to worry about interfering with my civic duty is my job - thanks to the old as dirt blue laws here in the great Commonwealth of KY, we are closed until the polls close at 6 pm. It's actually kinda nice - I get to work on putting orders away without a million phone calls, and everything is quite in the store. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather be doing my part for good ol' American capitalism and keeping the revenue rolling in (not to mention appeasing the government hounds by racking in tax dollars). However, knowing that we should all be drunk to vote for the yay-hoos the major parties stick us with at the polls, they shut down the liquor stores so that we can stand in line for hours in an almost-lobotomized stupor stone cold sober.


I do plan on opening a nice bottle of Magnificent Wine Co. House Red in honor of our election day madness. Unlike the candidates and their stances on the issues, this wine is all black and white (on the label) and red on the inside (where I am going with this I don't know).

Just whatever you do, go and vote. And for those who don't vote - shut up for four years and leave me alone.


The Grade: AMAZING. The Mojo: This little monster was one of the steller lineup I tasted two Wednesdays ago at Chalk with my cohorts Jesse and Shannon. A stunning old vine Garnacha from Bodegas Borsao, this beautiful little red is not little at all, with juicy red berry fruit in the nose, followed up by explosive red fruit on the palate. There are supple, medium tannins and hints of floral and mineral character, all enveloped beautifully by expressive, delicious red berries. This wine stands and delivers, specially priced for these dark economic times at $6.98! A wine to buy by the case.

Monday, November 3, 2008


The narcissistic streak in me has come out frowning with the Enobytes posting of Google's Top 100 Wine Blogs. Obviously, being only 6 months old, we weren't noticed, but I don't think any of the wine blogs from this area got any props. It's nice to be recognized, but as the old adage goes, you must crawl before you can walk. And we're still crawling.

I don't know how people feel about Wine Store blogs anyway, seeing as how we may or may not just be prostituting ourselves, schlepping product and so on. Yet I think that I (and my staff) have something fresh and different to talk about, the eccentricities of wine retail, dealing with wholesalers, meeting winemakers and importers, as well as striving to make wine a more communal experience for not only our clientele, but all our friends out in cyberspace.

Maybe someday, we'll be noticed. Right now, we're the Rodney Dangerfields of wine blogging.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


The silly season has arrived, although my team and I have been prepping for weeks. Unlike my buying counterparts in other retailer setups (like Best Buy, Eddie Bauer, etc.) people seem to drink more when the economy sucks! Drown your sorrows, I guess would be most people's mottos these days (thank you Republicans!). You'd think that the temperance movement would get the hint, making sure EVERYBODY had enough money to pay their bills and eliminate the need for 27 credit cards, then NOBODY would want to be living full-time in the state of intoxication.

Any-hoo, now that the silly season (my endearing term for the holidays) has descended upon us, I have abdicated my sole remaining day off in the meager hopes that my boss won't find a laundry list of missing signs, incorrect prices, out-of-stocks, etc. I love my job, don't get me wrong, but my boss is able to find at least 12 things wrong in just two minutes of observation. How? And more importantly, why? I can offer excuses, and make plausible explanations for nearly every single thing that he finds wrong, but in the end, the best thing to do is just fix it, and try the best you can to prevent these things from happening again (which is usually like holding back the ocean with a worn-out broom).

The onslaught of the shopping gods has been ruthless in the 6 years I have been at Liquor Direct, which is a good thing (I'd have to be completely daft to be bitching about a thriving business!) but it can be overwhelming, and can take a toll on one's personal life. My wife has been amazing through these past 6 years, though I've pushed her to the breaking point on more than one occasion. The retail world was not something I had planned on being a part of at any stage in my life (especially during the hair-band days), but here I am. Thank God I am going into this season with not one, but two assistants. Shannon and Jesse have been awesome, and are becoming quite adept at saving my bacon daily.

The point to this rant - I don't really know if there is one. Just being thankful out loud I guess. And hoping that my wife can tolerate me this year.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


So I am holed up in the office, listening to 96 Rock (the only decent rock station in Cincinnati), and churning out all the information that I am responsible for here at LDWS. It doesn’t help that today I feel a bit fuzzy thanks to a couple of glasses of David Bruce Petite Sirah 2005 ($17.98) - I am a real lightweight - which was really a perfect wine for Halloween (since my wife wouldn’t let me open the Phantom).

Website, newsletter, wines of the month, emails – my office day leaves me feeling like some sort of hermit, emerging from the “cave” long enough to grab another soda or some non-nutritious nosh to further expand my waistline. I tell ya, if I was a raging claustrophobe, I’d be royally screwed.

In a way though, it’s nice to gather up all the information I ingest over the week and log it in, circulating it to our client base and anyone else crazy enough to wade through my slightly subversive prose. I just in front of my laptop in my office (which is kind of a big fuse box for the stores with a really heavy old steel desk and various scattered papers, pictures of my glory days, and various business cards from all the reps and wine folk I’ve met over the years. It’s just a receptacle for controlled chaos, really.

This month, being that it’s my birthday month, I’ll be talking about Italian wines (my favorite wines on earth), along with more Petite Sirahs (thanks to Jo Diaz of Juicy Tales for reigniting my interest in PS), and some of the new wines trickling in from around the world.

Stay tuned.