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American Idol’s got nuthin’ on Murphy-Goode Winery. Why do people all over the country go ga-ga over this glorified camp talent show, when over in Sonoma, there is some serious career carrot being dangled? And drama building! Read the rest of this entry »


Let’s start with a reality check: Medals in wine don’t matter much in the 21st century, save for the wineries who win them. It wasn’t always this way. {Insert old geezer voice here…} Back in the 1980s, wine competitions were actual news—press releases were issued (and picked up); stickers from various competitions adorned bottles on retail shelves; gold medals got displayed in tasting rooms, received respect, and medal-winning wines frequently experienced a bump in the marketplace.

Competitions tended to be based regionally (San Francisco, San Diego, Orange County, L.A., Dallas, Atlanta, Buffalo are cities that pop to mind), sometimes connected to specific fairs, groups or publications, and the entrants were predominantly American. Indeed, success at these competitions helped raise the quality profile of California wines in particular. And why not? Winning wines—awarded GOLD, SILVER or BRONZE medals—played right into the American mindset of fair, Olympic-style competition. Hundreds upon hundreds of wines were judged blind at these affairs, by panels, with wines assessed in peer groups. The cream rose to the top, right? Read the rest of this entry »

 Er, uh, pretend this picture is in focus…zyrah 002

I believe this  is  was the last bottle of this wine on earth.

For my first Wine Blogging Wednesday, inspired by the way Robert Mondavi had a knack for pushing wine forward–in many ways and directions–I  chose Zyrah 1993; “a blended California Red Table Wine,” says the label. Zyrah was a Robert Mondavi spinoff of a spinoff, made under the Vichon label, which had recently been bought by RMW (and later become the winery for RMW’s La Famiglia line of Italian varietal wines). Read the rest of this entry »

In pondering how best to characterize the online existence of, I kept swinging back and forth between calling it a sham and a scam. Then I decided it is neither. It is just a shame. It is a sad emblem of how far down the much-abused 100-point scale has dragged us all.

I almost don’t want to provide a link to Or give them ay more attention than they deserve, which as far as I am concerned should extend not one minute beyond this post. But there is some value in shedding light on this ratings-fueled fiasco, so hold your nose and here we go. Read the rest of this entry »

They’re starting to sweat out in wine country. Several major sales indeces in April indicated that the U.S. wine market—which had been holding its own while the rest of the economy swirled counterclockwise down the toilet—has flattened out, and now is tapering. Not only are people “trading down,” as in moving from Cakebread to CK Mondavi, they are also drinking less vino.

Hoping to avert a full-fledged crisis, a group of consultants has issued a top-secret report advising the movers and shakers of northern California to take action. Naturally, a copy of said report was leaked to The Wine Skewer. Among the consultant recommendations:

Consolidate. Lose all the sub-appellations; combine Napa and Sonoma counties into one powerful entity to be known henceforth as “SONAPA” (written in all caps, to command more attention). Read the rest of this entry »

Y’know, I was going to try to sit down and analyze the three glossy buying guides in (in)glorious detail. However, contrary to appearances, I do not really consider that a good use of time. I traveled down this road before, in a two-parter published in Wines & Vines {July & Sept., 2006; happy to email a pdf of those articles to anyone who emails tish (at) wineforall com}. Based on perusing recent issues of Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits, however, I can say with confidence that the most relevant points I made back then still hold. In short, the buying guides may appear similar to the eye but are very different in execution, selectivity and transparency. To keep focus here, let’s stick just with the label presentations that wind up int said “buying guides.” To wit: Read the rest of this entry »