Tasting Note: 2008 Txomin Etxaniz Getaria Txakolina

This review – and all the new content on The Wine Case – is now at a new address, winecase.ca. Click here to read the review.

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Dan Aykroyd is coming to Montreal. Does his wine taste funny?

If I was in Montreal, I’d be tempted to go. Dan Aykroyd, the famous Canadian actor of Saturday Night Live fame will be touring Montreal, today and tomorrow (June 25 and 26), to present the line of wines that bear his name. He’ll be visiting three SAQ stores (see the list here) over the two days, to give the drinking public a taste of what’s bottled for him by Diamond Estates Wines and Spirits, the company behind Lakeview Cellar Wines, East Dell and 20 Bees, among other things.

If I could go, I’d certainly ask him what the deal is with all the celebrity wines appearing on the scene, this past couple of years. Like the Madonna, Kiss and Streisand wines from Celebrity Cellars. Or the Mike Weir and Wayne Gretzky wines made by Creekside Wines. Or the icewines and Napa Cab made for the Rolling Stones by Ex Nihilo Vineyards.

I’d ask him if he sees a difference between having a line of wines made by someone else, with your name on it, from various vineyards from here and there (Dan Aykroyd’s wines are sometimes VQA, sometimes not, sometimes from Canada, sometimes from Sonoma…), and actually owning your vineyards. Like Sting’s Il Palagio Sumner Family wines from Tuscany, Gérard Depardieu in the Loire, David and Victoria Beckham in California, Sam Neill in New Zealand, or even Francis Ford Coppola in California – although that last case definitely has more winemaking tradition in it than just celebrity trendiness.

Wine is certainly fashionable, if celebrities enjoy having their names on labels. It equates with luxury, health, pleasure, the good life. A good association if there ever was one. And you can even make a noble statement about biodiversity, the environment, and farming tradition – as the Sumners do in their biodynamic estate in Italy.

Oh, and by the way, I’ve had one of the Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series wines, before. The chardonnay, on a summer trip in Ontario. And no, it didn’t taste funny, despite my attempt at humor in the title. It wasn’t memorable, but it was simple and easy-drinking. In other words, it was fun.

Canadian Icewine: Quality and Diversity from Coast to Coast

I used to love Canadian Icewine and its less expensive, but often quite as tasty counterpart, the late harvest. And then, for some odd reason, I practically stopped having it.

Over the last few months, however, I drank icewines from Ontario, British Columbia, Québec and Nova Scotia. And baby, I’m back.

Those were fine, fine wines, with all the apricot, honey and floral aromas and flavors you’d want, the acidity needed to balance out the concentrated sweetness. What struck me the most, however, was the diversity of styles – a much greater range than I would have expected.

Let me give you an idea of this range of styles by giving tasting notes from West to East. (more…)

When Robert Parker can’t get his facts (or his ethical guidelines) straight

I was appalled and incensed, Friday evening, when I read a post by Robert Parker himself on the eRobertParker forum. I don’t often agree with Mr Parker’s taste, but I do have respect for what he’s accomplished and for the energy he’s put into advocating wine.

I’ve lost a lot of that respect, now, after an attack he has made on wine bloggers and on the Wine Bloggers Conference and those who organized it. And it’s not a question of opinion. Even as he accuses wine bloggers of spreading falsehoods, Mr Parker has evidently not even bothered to check any facts on what he states in his forum post.

Let me quote him. (more…)

Blog rankings: what a Wine Blogging Wednesday can do for your blog.

I got contacted, last week, by the folks at information portal Wikio, asking me if I wanted to have a chance to post an exclusive preview of the new rankings for top food and wine blogs compiled at the end of March. I’d come up over 30 spots since the previous rankings, they said, so they figured I would probably be happy to toot my horn a bit.

Sure, I said, why not, all the while keeping in mind the limitations in blog rankings that others have previously pointed to. Now, technical issues kept me from getting the rankings in time to write my “exclusive” post on time, and now the new rankings are out for March, and I’ve gone up from 111th rank in January to 61st in February to a smashing 27th place in late March.

Woohoo, right? Weeeeellll…

The key things you have to keep in mind about this ranking are that, first, it works on an opt-in basis (The Pour, Vinography, Fermentation and many other popular blogs are not in the list because they haven’t linked up to Wikio) and that, second, it works on the basis of links, rather than traffic per se. “The position of a blog in the Wikio ranking depends on the number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs.”, it says at the bottom of the page, adding that how recent these links are is also a factor.

Now, what did I do in February and March? I hosted the 55th Wine Blogging Wednesday, on a theme called North vs South. This collective wine tasting event is very popular, meaning that several wine bloggers always relay what the new theme is, and that the dozens who actually take part then link to your blog as they post their contribution on the theme in question. So that makes for a lot of links over these last two months, for me.

Same kind of thing happened to David McDuff, who hosted WBW 54, about Piedmont, and whose blog climbed all the way up to 12th place before falling back a bit to 19th place last month. I expect to start slipping back down next month. No regrets or surprises: it’s perfectly normal that less people will link to my blog next month, compared to the central blogging event that is Wine Blogging Wednesday. WBW brought me a lot of traffic, and I’ll only keep part of it on a recurring basis, as is always the case when something makes your traffic stats spike suddenly.

So what does that do for me? Well, judging from my stats, it has brought me some extra traffic. So thanks, Wikio. But am I the 27th most read and most important blog on the Internet? No way. I just had a really good couple of months, thanks to the WBW.

Wine Blogging Wednesday 55: North vs South, just across the Loire

The North vs South theme I proposed for Wine Blogging Wednesday provides bloggers with certain guidelines (use the same grapes, so you can compare), but also with a lot of leeway. Thousands of miles of leeway, really.

If you wanted, you could pick similar wines from the other side of the world. The antipodes, really. Spanish vs New Zealand pinot noir. Or Finger Lakes vs Australian riesling. That’s as far apart as it gets.

I wanted to raise the challenge for myself (more…)

Quebec City hosts its first ever Salon des vins

Tomorrow, Quebec City’s very first Salon des vins et spiritueux (site in French only) will open, providing wine lovers and professionals from the region (and beyond) with a first event of this scale. Organizers have managed to get a lot of people on board, showcasing a higher number of industry participants than the Montreal Salon, which was, up to now, the only one in Quebec.

Of course, it remains to be seen if (more…)

American Wine Blog Award winners – and other blogs you should read

The votes have been tallied, added to the jury’s vote (70% popular vote, 30% jury), and the results are now official. The winners for the 2009 American Wine Blog Awards have been announced.

Nice bunch of blogs in that list: Vinography (twice, and a winner for two yars in a row), Lenndevours, The Good Grape, The Wine Collector, Michel Schlumberger’s Benchland Blog, and Bigger Than Your Head, a blog I discovered as a finalist in the 2008 AWBA. 

Congratulations to all, and happy blogging for many years to come.

While I’m at it, though, (more…)

Breeding cabernet for the cold winters of North America

With all the great wine already made from grapes that are admirably adapted to their soil and climate, why would anyone want to invent a new kind of grape? Shouldn’t we just let nature be?

Fact is, having great pinot from Burgundy (okay, and Oregon, and Sonoma Coast…),  solid cabernets from Bordeaux (and California, and Chile, and…) or amazing sangiovese from Tuscany (and… that’s pretty much it), isn’t a natural thing. It’s the result of centuries of active work in the vineyard to pick the grape varieties that work best in a certain climate, on a certain soil, etc. A lot of nurture to get nature where humans want it to go.

Even more active, in that respect, (more…)

It’s AWBA time again

It’s that time of the year again. The Oscars, the Grammys… the American Wine Blog Awards.

These Wine Blog Awards were created by Tom Wark of Wark Communications and the Fermentation Blog, one of the most widely read wine blogs on the web. They are now in their third year, and were created with an interesting mix of public voting and judging in mind.

Right now, until midnight tomorrow, February 8, you can nominate your favorite wine blogs by simply leaving a comment in the appropriate category on Tom’s blog (please feel free to nominate this blog, if you’ve enjoyed it – just not in the graphics category…). From there, a panel of judges will select four blogs in each category as finalists. And then, the vote will be open to the public again. The more suggestions at this point, the better the chances for the finalists to be representative of what people are reading and enjoying in the growing world of wine blogs.

So go ahead and nominate. Then come back and vote, when the finalists are out. A little recognition goes a long way for wine bloggers, who more often than not are doing this in their spare time, with little or no revenue in return.

Published in: on February 7, 2009 at 3:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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