Monday, November 15, 2010

Anybody can be a Wine Critic . . .

Check out this drivel, by Mike Steinberger, Slate's wine columnist:

I know we have a free press, and anybody can publish whatever BS opinion they want, about anything, but how did this guy get his position as a wine writer? There is some pretty suspect advice in this piece. The only good point he makes is that many wineries in Napa, and especially some of the high-end ones, are in some serious trouble with their overpricing and this weak economy.

I have nothing against the CONCEPT of good wines from Napa. Let them flow, from whatever extremely-limited places where they exist. Too many Napa wines are overpriced and (as M.S. noted, but this is widely known so he doesn't get credit for saying it) they are hopped up with too much alcohol and too much oak, and thus cannot be much good with food.

But, really? To call the following wines the good ones from NADA Valley???

1. 2004 Smith-Madrone ($37): Spectator finally stopped scoring these guys 12 years ago--their last two scores were 72 and 74. Those are failing scores, in the Napa context. If this winery has turned around, Spectator doesn't seem to know about it.

2. 2006 Napanook ($43): This is Dominus' second label. But Spectator gives this wine 82 points--which is not exactly hearty praise--and says it has "an earthy streak, which bends to dryness." Ouch! And oh the by the way, there are numerous 90-point wines which cost half this much, or even much less.

3. Dominus (I chose the 2006, like its second label cousin above) ($129): This got a whopping 86 points and Spectator says, ". . . trim, tannic finish suggests only short-term cellaring." Let me get this right: For $129 we should buy a wine that must be drunk now and has an average grade. For that same cost, you can buy a CASE of a much better wine. It's just not from Nada Valley; hope you don't mind . . .

4. I have tasted the length and breadth of Ch. Montelena, and though their winery building is most impressive, the wines just aren't.

That is hardly the kind of service that readers should expect from a wine writer. Please, please, don't follow his advice--don't put those wines on your Thanksgiving table.

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