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A little healthy perspective...

by Hoke » Mon Aug 14, 2006 3:12 pm

Seems like there's been a lot of complaining lately. You know, the usual, wine's too expensive, prices keep going up, $20 is the new $10, I can't afford what I used to drink, globalization is ruining the wine business, it's all mediocrity now, yadda yadda yadda.

So....this weekend we got caught in a bind, didn't have any wine chilled and ready, wanted to crack open a bottle, and I had to run a separate errand anyway, so I stopped in a local grocery chain (Safeway) because it was convenient.

Previous to this my wife had been to an upscale specialty grocer and on a whim picked up a bottle that was on closeout special. It was a Pezzi King Sauvignon Blanc North Coast 2002. She took a chance on it. (She hadn't been aware the winery got into distress and flopped). The stuff was awful. So bad, I poured it down the drain. Not cork tainted, mind you, just awful: thin, raw lemon juice, shrill, no fruit, no complexity.

So when I stopped in Safeway I heeded her plea and picked up a bottle of wine, another CA Sauvignon Blanc. Also picked up a small bag of one of my personal weaknesses, Rainier Cherries.

When I got home, I opened and poured the SB. My wife loved it, absolutely loved it. It wasn't great, by any means, but it was pretty damned good, and it fit the occasion perfectly.

Funny thing, too: The wine was on promotion this month, so was selling for $6.00 a bottle. The Rainier Cherries were selling for just over $9 a pound.

Interesting that I was able to buy a satisfying, well made, decent bottle of wine (that actually showed distinctive varietal character and regional tipicity) for $6...a labor-intensive, production product for $6. And the cherries, picked and packaged off a tree and delivered fresh, were $9.

There are a few conclusions that one could consider here. Just one of them is that it's a pretty damned good time to be a wine lover. Another is that those damned cherries might be overpriced. :)
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Bill Buitenhuys

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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Bill Buitenhuys » Mon Aug 14, 2006 3:21 pm

Good stuff there, Hoke. You are right. There are so many wines out there that are quite delicious and can be had for less than a couple pints of strawberries or a pint of fresh native blueberries. We were bantering on some thread about feeling guilty every time we open a bottle of anything from Dom. Pepiere or from Brun because they are too cheaply priced. For shame of these wine makers, making ME feel guilty by not charging me enough! :wink:
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Dave Erickson » Mon Aug 14, 2006 4:53 pm

When I look at a bottle of Borsao Campo de Borja for $5.99--and I tend to do this several times a day, because we sell a lot of it--I STILL wonder how on earth they get it done so it retails at that price. It's nobody's idea of a great bottle, but it's good to drink, and it's absurdly inexpensive for what it is.
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Bob Ross

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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Bob Ross » Mon Aug 14, 2006 5:00 pm

Thanks for a feel good post, Hoke. There are so many nice wines in the world -- not all at that low a price point -- but lots of really good choices in the $10 to $20 range.

You made my afternoon. Thanks, Bob
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by wrcstl » Mon Aug 14, 2006 5:10 pm

Hoke,
Man, the cherry vendor saw you coming. Eat lots of them when they are in season and $4.99 for Rainier Cherries is the going rate. If they made a Rainier Cherry wine it would probably only be $6 a bottle.
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Steve Edmunds » Mon Aug 14, 2006 5:23 pm

Just one small comment about the price of cherries. One of my best growers (wine grapes) also manages orchards, in the Sierra foothills. Cherries won't be the only steep-priced tree fruit this year. If you remember what kind of Spring we had in California that cherry price makes a lot more sense. My grower DIDN'T HAVE a cherry crop this year. :cry:
And his cherries have been the best I've ever eaten.
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Mike Filigenzi » Mon Aug 14, 2006 5:32 pm

I think people tend to lose their perspective when wines they could justify buying two years ago become priced high enough that they can no longer justify the purchase. Good to have a reminder that there remain many very good wines available for very low prices.

Heck, given the price of a bottle of water these days......



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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Ruth B » Mon Aug 14, 2006 5:34 pm

Hi Hoke,

You are right about the occassionally nifty bottle at a nifty price.

I picked up a bottle of NZ Babich Sauvignon Blanc the other day at the Liquor Depot because I didn't want to drive the extra hour to the wine shop. It was terrific wine for sipping on the deck on a hot sunny day.
Ended up with A.Mano Primitivo much the same way.

Nice post, made me smile.

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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Hoke » Mon Aug 14, 2006 5:39 pm

wrcstl wrote:Hoke,
Man, the cherry vendor saw you coming. Eat lots of them when they are in season and $4.99 for Rainier Cherries is the going rate. If they made a Rainier Cherry wine it would probably only be $6 a bottle.
Walt


Hey, man, what can I say? I'm a sucker for Rainiers. I knew what they were gonna cost, partly because they were late in season and partly because, as Steve said, the season sucked anyway. But they were Rainiers!

One of my company's vineyards is situated on what used to be a cherry orchard. And the vineyard manager maintained a small portion, right on the crest near the pond, where he encourages the cherry trees to grow. When we take visitors up there, all they want to do is sit under the cherry trees and pick those darned cherries.

Since I'm usually the first one picking and eating, I can't very well criticize them.
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Hoke » Mon Aug 14, 2006 5:41 pm

Ruth B wrote:Hi Hoke,

You are right about the occassionally nifty bottle at a nifty price.

I picked up a bottle of NZ Babich Sauvignon Blanc the other day at the Liquor Depot because I didn't want to drive the extra hour to the wine shop. It was terrific wine for sipping on the deck on a hot sunny day.
Ended up with A.Mano Primitivo much the same way.

Nice post, made me smile.

Ruth


Ruth: You know, when you stop to think about it, we're all spoiled by the sheer amount and diversity of basically good wine out there! Is it all profoundly great? No. But is sure can be satisfying---especially when you get the pleasure of it, knowing you didn't have to break your bank to do it.
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Aug 14, 2006 9:15 pm

Ruth, life is good eh. Babich and A Mano.....good choices. Have you tried some of the Proseccos at DeVines?
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Ruth B » Tue Aug 15, 2006 11:15 am

Dirk keeps trying to convince me of the merit of Prosecco and I have tried a few. Not my favourite style of wine I must admit. I don't hate it, I just don't love it.

I do love champagne and I think I keep hoping that Prosecco will taste more champagne like, even though intellectually I know the grapes are different and it should be very different.

:?

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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by OW Holmes » Tue Aug 15, 2006 11:35 am

Years ago I read a post by someone on wine that is "good enough." Wine that no one will put down in the cellar and show their friends, or bring out during that special occasion. Wine that, while not complex, is properly made, balanced, and varietally correct. Maybe even a little interesting. Obviously, that post made an impression on me, as did this one. I love wines that are"good enough."
Last night my daughter and her kids came over for a simple summer dinner of grilled chicken, corn on the cob, veggies, etc.. and I pulled a bottle of Laboure Roi Pinot Noir, $8.99, from a mixed case of "cheap wines to try" I had picked up the week before. It was the first I grabbed, and I thought, this is "good enough." Actually, quite a lot better than good enough. Varietally correct, good acid, sufficient but not obtrusive tannins, and very quaffable. And really enjoyable dining on the deck with the family. It's nice what $9.00 will buy. Three gallons of gas, 8 bottles of water, or a nice bottle of wine.
-OW
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Ruth B » Tue Aug 15, 2006 1:07 pm

I wish $9 would buy three gallons of gas here!
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Dan Donahue » Tue Aug 15, 2006 4:36 pm

I recently went to a wine tasting dinner with some other wine geeks. We opened up 11 cabs, 5 BDX and 6 CA. They were mostly too young and not showing well. I had a long drive afterward and so I did a lot of dumping of some expensive wines. Between the shut down condition of most of the wines, the dumping and trying to keep up with the flights (and some unfortunate food matchups) I can't say that I enjoyed the wine. In fact I was a little bummed out with this hobby of ours and didn't pop another bottle for over a week.

Eventually I opened up an '05 Crawford SB with some Thai food and rediscovered the joy of a good bottle of wine. Not earth-moving, not an intellectual struggle, just a good enough wine to enjoy with dinner.
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Hoke » Tue Aug 15, 2006 8:36 pm

OW Holmes wrote:Years ago I read a post by someone on wine that is "good enough." Wine that no one will put down in the cellar and show their friends, or bring out during that special occasion. Wine that, while not complex, is properly made, balanced, and varietally correct. Maybe even a little interesting. Obviously, that post made an impression on me, as did this one. I love wines that are"good enough."
Last night my daughter and her kids came over for a simple summer dinner of grilled chicken, corn on the cob, veggies, etc.. and I pulled a bottle of Laboure Roi Pinot Noir, $8.99, from a mixed case of "cheap wines to try" I had picked up the week before. It was the first I grabbed, and I thought, this is "good enough." Actually, quite a lot better than good enough. Varietally correct, good acid, sufficient but not obtrusive tannins, and very quaffable. And really enjoyable dining on the deck with the family. It's nice what $9.00 will buy. Three gallons of gas, 8 bottles of water, or a nice bottle of wine.


This probably sounds hubristic as hell, OW, but I think I may be the guy who made that "wines that are good enough" post you referred to. I vaguely remember doing a post on that some years ago. The more I think about it, the more I think it was me. (Which would be cool.)
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Lou Kessler » Tue Aug 15, 2006 9:12 pm

My wife loves Rainier cherries and I'm usually relegated to eating the garden variety ones. But you are absolutely correct that there are more decent wines at reasonable prices than ever before.
I paid seven dollars a pound for Rainiers the other day here in Napa. I'm glad we don't live in Sonoma where they price things for the local "swells". That's what happens when you move "uptown". Hopefully you'll still do a little slumming and visit us common folks in Napa. (The Home of Cheap Cherries and inexpensive Wines)
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by OW Holmes » Wed Aug 16, 2006 12:04 am

Hoke wrote:
This probably sounds hubristic as hell, OW, but I think I may be the guy who made that "wines that are good enough" post you referred to. I vaguely remember doing a post on that some years ago. The more I think about it, the more I think it was me. (Which would be cool.)


I may be mixing memories here with another post that really struck me, but I think the author of that post had spent some time working a vineyard in the fall, seeing what the owners went through to produce their wine, etc. The odds are pretty good that I am thinking of two separate posts, but......
-OW
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by James Roscoe » Wed Aug 16, 2006 12:16 am

What the hell are Rainier cherries and why are they so damned good? I actually prefer my cherries baked so I suspect these $9/lb cherries would be wasted on me. It is true that there are plenty of decent wines for under $10. Unfortunately the stores push the crap not the good stuff. you really have to search out the good buys, but they are out there.
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Hoke » Thu Aug 17, 2006 12:10 pm

James Roscoe wrote:What the hell are Rainier cherries and why are they so damned good? I actually prefer my cherries baked so I suspect these $9/lb cherries would be wasted on me. It is true that there are plenty of decent wines for under $10. Unfortunately the stores push the crap not the good stuff. you really have to search out the good buys, but they are out there.


James, Rainier cherries are a type developed in the Pacific Northwest, and most prevalent there. They tend to be delicate, thin skinned, sweet but not cloying, not as heavy or pronounced as Bing or Black. The skins are a lovely mottling of pink and yellow.

I think they don't ship well, because with their light thin skins they show bruises easily. But for me they epitomize summer, and I gorge myself on them when they are available, for all too short a time.
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by James Roscoe » Thu Aug 17, 2006 1:02 pm

Hoke wrote:James, Rainier cherries are a type developed in the Pacific Northwest, and most prevalent there. They tend to be delicate, thin skinned, sweet but not cloying, not as heavy or pronounced as Bing or Black. The skins are a lovely mottling of pink and yellow.

I think they don't ship well, because with their light thin skins they show bruises easily. But for me they epitomize summer, and I gorge myself on them when they are available, for all too short a time.


Yet something else you Left Coast guys keep to yourselves. First it was the good weather, then it was the good wine, now it's cherries. With global warming the whole place will look like Death Valley in no time and maybe we'll have the nice weather, the good wine, and the good cherries in the east. It's nice to dream.
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Bob Ross » Thu Aug 17, 2006 1:36 pm

OW, I remember a passage on price and quality that made a similar impression on me. I have the quote, but for some reason didn't put down the source:

Does Price Matter?

Like all things - yes, to a degree.

Wine that is dirt cheap often tastes dirt cheap. We're talking about wines that you buy in Liter quantities, or in boxes with spouts. You get what you pay for at that point, and you don't get much. Anyone with remotely passable taste buds can discern the differences between these wines and finer wines.

On the other hand, the differences on the higher end of the scale are also so vanishingly small that only professional tasters can tell any qualitative difference. This tends to occur around the $30-50 price range for most people, who will not notice any qualitative difference between Chateau Ferriere ($30) and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild ($225). To make the most of your money, you'd be better off buying a case of very good wine instead of a single bottle of an excellent wine where you can't tell the difference anyway.

You should take this to mean that the interesting wines (to you, that is, as opposed to professional wine reviewers and snobs) fall in this middle range. As always, the real gems are the wines that fall into the lower end of this range in price, but taste comparably to wines in the higher end of the range. These are wines that are good enough to please anyone, yet affordable enough to have more than once or twice in a lifetime.


My best memory is that this was written by an engineering student, perhaps from Taiwan? In any event, it's informed much of my thinking about wine, especially since I like two quite different ways of approaching wine:

1. Lots of variety -- that means I can't really become an expert without tasting lots and lots of different wines. At one time that really appealed to me, but now I enjoy drinking wine much more, so I'll never develop the kind of keen appreciation necessary to become an expert.

2. No variety -- on a regular basis, I drink only one wine -- somewhere in the $12 to $20 range for a period of four to six weeks.

It's interesting that we both read a similar passage that had an important effect on how we approach wines.

Regards, Bob

PS: I remember Hoke writing something along similar lines, but I'm darned if I can find it. In my memory it was on WLDG, perhaps in one of the threads that was pruned several years ago in the normal course of lightening up the retained files. Unfortunately I didn't make a copy. B.
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Re: A little healthy perspective...

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Aug 22, 2006 4:21 pm

Ruth B wrote:Dirk keeps trying to convince me of the merit of Prosecco and I have tried a few. Not my favourite style of wine I must admit. I don't hate it, I just don't love it.

I do love champagne and I think I keep hoping that Prosecco will taste more champagne like, even though intellectually I know the grapes are different and it should be very different.

:?

Ruth


Ruth, looks some of us, those not going to the McCool picnic, are thinking of opening some bubbly this weekend on Open Mike. I am now thinking Prosecco after some promptings over on another thread!! Come on, join us!

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