Friday, February 27, 2009

CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM AND CONTROLLING YOUR INNER MONOLOGUE

In response to a post on Wicker Parker - one of the American Wine Blog Awrd finalists, the author made a seemingly backhanded remark about Hahn Pinot Noir 2006 that seemed for lack of a better word, "odd". I wouldn’t really think anything of this, although the folks at Hahn have been very, very good to us, and everything we have had from them has been impressive enough to get behind. For a retailer to say that off the bat, that’s strong! I realize that I have gone off half-cocked before (who hasn't really), but I am left a bit puzzled by his recent post.

And it wouldn’t have mattered if the guy had explained why he disliked it, or why he thought it was wrong, but instead, he just said:


“…if people stop buying Hahn Monterey Pinot Noir, that can only be a good thing. This was served at a dinner party I went to last Saturday, and that shit is nasty, with a really artificial-feeling mouthfeel, like something was added to increase glycerin levels. I suspect something worse than plain old oak chips. It quite literally made my stomach churn. I'd never say this to my friend who brought it (and sadly, it's his new favorite wine) so let's keep this thought between you and me, eh?”


The statement leaves the reader with the impression that the wine simply “sucks.” While he does allude to the fact that, in his belief, the wine was in some way adulterated, as to why it “sucked,” the bottom line is that it is opinion. And quoting the Oxford Companion’s specs on Pinot Noir to my friends Lisa de Bruin aka WineDiverGirl and Thea Dwelle of Luscious Lushes Blog isn’t a good angle to take on his argument, when there are upteen Syrahs, Cabs, Merlots, Chards, etc, from California and the world over that push the textbook boundaries in one way or another.

Adam LaZarre, former winemaker at Hahn (the reins have since been transferred to Paul Clifton) actually came to our store last year and put on a terrific seminar surrounding the Hahn Family commitment to Pinot Noir, and he demonstrated the different styles that the Hahn and Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noirs have. We had a capacity crowd that was knocked out by the quality and value that the Hahn Pinot Noir presents, and I didn’t hear a soul then utter the word “shitty” when describing this wine.


I’ve been in the business for some 20 years, and while I have to admit, I have tasted some shitty wines in my day, and none of them remotely come close to how the Hahn Pinot Noir tastes. And I most certainly would not commit this to print (traditional or electronic). The rub of “putting your balls” out there as Jerry Cantrell (as a Kinkos-esque copy boy) tells Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, is that, as Jerry Maguire does, get them stomped on. I don’t know the guy who writes Wicker Parker, so this isn’t a personal thing, it’s just that I don’t even understand why he even brought it up. The blog post was about something completely different – Grignolino grape and Football via Decanter and the French gov’t telling its citizens not to drink wine.


I just think that if he was going to talk about Hahn and his impression of the wine, he would have done it in a more constructive way. For laughs, I pulled my two assistant wine buyers and one of my beer buyers into the office and we opened up a Hahn Pinot Noir 2006, to see if we could see what Mike at Wicker Parker was talking about, and the overall consensus was that we couldn't taste anything in the way of flaws; this was a varietally correct, well-crafted wine with very nice cherry flavors, notes of candied fruit, spice and nuttiness. While it had a tiny bit of glycerol character, that certainly didn't take away from it recommendability. I wouldn't hesitate for a second to walk out into the store and single this out to any one of our customers as a good everyday drinking Pinot Noir. And by the way, Oprah even wrote this wine up in her magazine, and you know she wouldn't sell people crap, she's a fucking multimedia conglomerate for Christ's sake!


Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the glibness in his delivery makes me wonder what the judges were thinking when they passed over the likes of 1Wine Dude or Wannabe Wino.


Personally, I don't have anything to be gained by chiming in on this debate, but I do have a bit of loyalty to the folks at Hahn, who have certainly had a hand in helping our stores become more successful. So for Paul Clifton and the winemaking team at Hahn, as well as to Lisa de Bruin (who works for the Marketing arm of Hahn Estates) - I got your back.

4 comments:

Joe Roberts, CSW said...

I appreciate the shout-out, Kevin.

Personally, I'm not upset about being left out of the AWBA running, though I appreciate the positive vibes coming from you and others who seemed surprised that I wasn't a finalist.

I view myself as the King's X of Wine Blogging - the band that other bands like Pearl Jam cite as being really good and influencing their playing - then everyone goes to Pearl Jam concerts, buys their albums, and gives them Grammys while King's X watches. :-)

k2 said...

King's X. Nice analogy, though I hope you get more respect than they do. That band has been heroes of mine since '89 when my guitar player let me borrow Gretchen Goes to Nebraska on CD. Should have been the Beatles of Hard Rock, but then the indies got all weird because their were at first a Christian Rock band, and... Oops! Someone just stood me on my soapbox. And BTW, I really WAS surprised, because who the hell was this Wicker Parker. I don't remember seeing links to this guys blog on anybody's site. Not to bash the guy, but where did he come from anyway.

Just keep doing what you do. And thanks!

writegirl said...

I'm sad that the Hahn, which usually receives such good reviews was panned, but that's why we're bloggers and hey, some wine just isn't for everyone. That said, I rarely will pan a wine quite as, um, ungraciously as he did, but c''est la vie. Personally, I adore Hahn wines and have a "wine crush" on Adam Lazarre. I just adore him! (http://poprl.com/M9h)

Regarding the AWBA, I'm glad you mentioned our Cincinnati contingent. For my blog, at least, I didn't ever find a fitting category. I would love a best regional blog category (of course, I'd lose to my buddy Lenn, but that's okay) or something similar. Awards are, well, awards. There's a reason Woody Allen never shows up for the Oscars. I admit they are fun to get, but thankfully, I'm not judging my worth by them. I learned that when I was always "almost" Prom Queen. ;-)

k2 said...

You said it sister! My Grandma always said, "if you ain't got something nice to say about someone, shut the f%$& up! Unless it's about politicians 'cos they're assholes!"

Our friend at Another Wine Blog breaks the issues with the AWBA down really well. Check it out.