What a year! While May seem like a strange time for a “year in review” feature, it actually makes perfect sense when you consider that Wine Lines Online launched in May 2011. So… Happy Birthday to us!
In case you’re new to the website, you can read about the folks behind it here. We are four very different people with very different backgrounds who share a powerful commonality: a profound interest in wine.
In reviewing the dozens of blog postings from the year gone by, our diversity becomes quite apparent. So does our love of wine, our respect for the winemaking process, and our gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of the “wine world.”
So, if you’ll indulge us, here are 10 of our favorite “moments” from the first year of Wine Lines Online…
Those who are fortunate enough to live in Las Vegas (like Glen and Mary) rarely venture onto the Strip. Especially on weekends, when the town is invaded by tourists. Instead, locals look for off-Strip casinos that make a special effort to attract residents for action and events.
Living in the Southwest area, it was natural that Glen and Mary would adopt the South Point Hotel, with its wide array of top-notch dining options, as their “paradise” of choice.
Over the past year, Mary has come to realize that she has more fun dining in high-end restaurants in her new hometown of Las Vegas than trying to replicate such meals in her kitchen.
Since 1993, Mary has written about wines and food preparation (i.e., recipes) on a regular basis. While the early years were mostly about creating and preparing recipes, she now enjoys the dining part more. Let’s be honest: Thanks to the “computer age,” today’s cook has easy access to great recipes by very experienced chefs. The recipes are “tried and true,” and one has to make only minor changes in order to personalize them. Why reinvent the wheel?
“Okay, I am a lazy person — I admit that freely,” Mary says. So in the coming year, look for more articles about her discoveries of great places to dine.
If the measure of a writer were how often he offered up a prosaic line to wine’s intoxicating power, Tom might well have won a Nobel prize in literature by now. Seriously. Consider…
• “And then, with the passage of time, you, too, will have the blessed experience of drinking solo. Your arms propped up on the counter, eating like a king of kings.” — A Manifesto for Drinking Alone
• “The large world of appellations, farms, soils, and seasons is history, both physically and figuratively. Wine from this perspective has no boundaries. Every sip is different. Every bottle, every drop is unique. It is a story with no beginning or end. It is the earth; it will consume us.
“In removing complexity, one also removes mystery and mysticism. The victim of our misunderstanding is a Bacchus of infinite proportions. For false knowledge and reassurance, for the sake of feeling grounded, we have sacrificed magic.” — An American Misunderstanding
• “And though we may fault him for his immaturity or his ignorance in light of this quest for transcendence, let us at least give credit where credit is due. For if he still searches, if he still tastes as he did in his youth, he has not given up. He is not a nihilist. He is not a drinker.
“No, much better — he is a taster, and in wine, he sees the origins of Dionysian faith.” — Happy Hour Musings of a Young Wine Taster
• “Who said you can’t have your cake and drink it, too? The girls at Table 6 are certainly doing it. Why not you?” — You Gave That Wine What Rating?!
• “As a rule, the majority of drinkers (or any body of people, for that matter) want what is familiar to them. They want ‘the usual’ and they want ‘more of the same,’ which to any elitist vinographer smacks of middle-class consumerism, nausea-inducing suburbia and the uncultured proletariat.” — The Sommelier’s Torment
• “And perhaps, when you find yourself drunk on more than wine, but on the sun-kissed sight of some young Iberian, too, it becomes impossibly clear: If you really want a wine that represents such an enchanting country, it must have spell-binding magic at its heart, not just lip-staining color.” — The Spirit of Spain
Considering Bob’s primary “beat” for Wine Lines Online involves the synergy between wine and music, it should come as no surprise that his personal highlight of the past 12 months involved wine… and music.
On a recent trip to Texas Hill Country, Bob took in shows by legendary Texas band Asleep at the Wheel and Austin-based singer-songwriter Slaid Cleaves, both of whom now have tunes included in Wine Lines Online’s ever-growing list of “wine songs.”
And along the way, Bob stopped at the tasting room of a Hill Country winery, where this Rhone-inspired blend earned a rating of 90 (and “Featured Wine” status on our homepage).
A big part of Glen’s continuing passion for wine is the never-ending sense of discovery the subject generates. Whether it’s a new bottle of wine, a new winery or a new wine region, even 30-year vino veterans are making new finds on a regular basis.
During the first year of Wine Lines’ web debut, Glen’s taste buds have stumbled upon the wonderfully flavorful Pinot Noir bottlings of MacPhail Family Winery, new Riesling winners from New York’s Finger Lakes District, and a deal he couldn’t refuse in the “Godfather” of wine’s Francis Ford Coppola Winery.
Who knows what the next year has in store, vino-wise?
While wine can be a most seductive mistress, she can also be a real bank-buster. Finding enjoyable wines at a pocketbook-pleasing price is the quest of every serious wino, except, perhaps, Bill Gates. Fortunately, we are living in the best of times for those keeping a bigger eye on the bottom line than on the bottom of the glass.
Glen has been having fun tracking down bargain bottlings in Las Vegas, and sharing them in a regularly updated column under the “Vino, Las Vegas!” banner.
On a more geographically encompassing level, Wine Lines Online has added a category called “Value Vino,” where all reviewed wines that score 88 points or higher and cost less than $20 are archived. Have a look around — you’re bound to find some real gems there.
Bob has been a fan of “smooth jazz” guitarist Peter White dating back to the days when White played in the band of Al Stewart — who happens to be a wine collector. Last fall, Bob ventured to Davenport, Iowa, to hear White play at an event that included a pre-concert walk-around wine tasting.
(The post includes a “re-print” of a feature story about White that Bob wrote for the Sonoma County Independent back in 1999 — prior to a PW concert at Rodney Strong Vineyards.)
In Davenport, the wine tasting was highlighted by a Petite Sirah-based blend, crafted by a California winery that is historically linked to the variety.
As if working at the world’s No. 1-rated restaurant and drinking biodynamic/natural wine under a Copenhagen bridge weren’t enough, Tom headed to Paris to embark on an epic food and wine-fueled junket that helped answer that age-old philosophical question: How many pastries can you eat in 30 days?
From spending time in the kitchen of Le Chateaubriand, where he learned how to make ice cream from only fruit, to the gorgeous landscape of Burgundy, where he ate the world’s best roast chicken, to the hipster appeal of the Loire’s outside-the-box vignerons, this trip had it all.
And we didn’t even mention that time Tom got a Mercedes sports car stuck in a ditch outside Sancerre while foraging for edible plants with three Danish wine importers. (Best we keep that one to ourselves…)
Last summer, Glen and Bob traveled to Santa Maria, in California’s Central Coast winegrowing region, for the Chardonnay Symposium.
It wasn’t the best organized wine event they’ve ever attended, and the number of American Viticultural Areas represented was disappointing. But one of the few non-Santa Maria wines available for tasting proved to be a highlight.
The true highlight of the trip, however, was the opportunity for Glen and Bob to catch up with their mentor in the world of wine, Dr. James Crum, and his wife Anne, who live nearby. After a few glasses of Sauvignon Blanc (Jim’s favorite variety), it was off to the unpretentious Jocko’s restaurant in the tiny town of Nipomo, where the servings are huge, the steaks are expertly cooked over oak chips, and the corkage fee is a mere $5.
Fact: There’s luck, and then there’s Wine Lines luck. Barely six weeks after launching the site, we received word that we’d been nominated as a “Best New Wine Blog” by the folks who host the annual Wine Bloggers Conference of America.
Obviously, we appreciated the honor, but at the time, we didn’t know quite know what to make of it. How was that possible? A mere fraction of the well over a thousand postings that would be made over the course of our first year had seen the light of day.
We did not pick up the final award in Charlottesville — falling short to our new friend David White at Terroirist.com — but let’s not lie: He had a few months on us!
The non-winners of Academy Awards have long been known to say, “The honor is in the nomination.” Frankly, we’ve always thought that was a bunch of B.S. But now that we know what it’s like to be nominated and not win… we KNOW it’s B.S.
(Seriously, we truly were humbled by the nomination, and have spent the remainder of our first year trying to live up to it.)