Wine is so Theoretical

What working in the wine trade taught me:

Humility produces an unlimited return and is non zero-sum.

This is why any phrasing which compares or measures humility is so deeply suspicious. As a signal of virtue it gains nothing and only obscures corruption.

On another subject (not really) – try replacing the phrase “conspiracy theory” with “convergence of interests.” What is the effect on meaning?

Much energy comes from the contrast of words “theory” and “interest.”

“Theory” has an axis of value. “It’s just a theory,” exemplifies one end, and the more strictly scientific usage exemplifies the other – Heliocentrism, Evolution, etc.

And yet, the word “interest” might be more interesting even than “theory.”

“Interest” is shrouded with a shallow semantic equivalence to “curiosity.” And it is stained with the vulgarity implied by the phrase “special interest.” Interest in this sense, unlike humility, is a zero-sum set.

An ideological framework which positions democracy as virtue implies that special interest is illegitimate. But even in such systems, it must be stitched into the fabric. I suppose the data demands it.

Is it a conspiracy or a convergence of interests that causes an insured warehouse full of trophy wines to burn down?

I know I said not to measure humility, but is this sentence legit?:

“I’d like to see at least as many conversational resources devoted to the humble disclosure of interests as to the declaration of virtue.”

In passing I’d say that doesn’t sound like it was phrased after drinking a bottle of wine.

Of course none of this has to apply only to the subject of wine and its appreciation.



(care to map the sarcasm, if any, in the above?)




What are the ideological implications of the word “pinnacle?”

In geometry “pinnacle” is the unification of surfaces – the making of singularity.

And the pinnacle of this piece – titled Detroit Restaurant of the Year: How we’re changing it up this time – occurs after a few initial paragraphs devoted to expansion and innovation.

To decide metro Detroit’s Restaurant of the Year, gone is the limiting variable of newly-opened status. A restaurant of any age can win.

The obvious question is whether that variable can ever be gone. It seems to me we now have two separate awards – best new, and best “not new,” both of which are determined by how new they are. Also, one can’t really obviate the variable of newness in deliberation. At best, a human might hope to offset it by introducing the competing one: endurance.

Still, the Freep will soon decide what “represents the pinnacle of dining in metro Detroit.” And to borrow another spatial metaphor, this is where the rubber hits the road.

I say with no irony that this is a high quality award. Resources are generously deployed to ensure its independence, and past winners show this. Furthermore, as imperial as its claim is, I know of no immediate competitor to the Freep’s ROTY brand. (Send me a link if you have one.)

And the concept of one restaurant of the year is legitimate. In a realm of enterprise so finely articulated with goals, it only makes sense to comment on concentrations of achievement. When done well, such an award can inspire an industry.

But how does the word “pinnacle” shape the reader? The singularity this word implies unfairly simplifies the person using it. A pinnacle of dining suggests a large universe in a rigid state.

In addition to “the position of Mercury in conjunction with the sun,” I’d like to suggest just one more variable: the company such an award keeps. This award filters the crowd so strongly, such that attending a winning restaurant can be like walking into a cognitive hall of mirrors.

If dining out is dramatic performance, then the ROTY diner is a stock character: the Trophy Hunter. What happens when the Trophy Hunters multiply and interact under one roof? Monoculture has a toxicology, and we should wonder about its influence on the food.

Hats off to anyone even attempting to define Metro Detroit’s Restaurant of the Year. The collective effort required to determine such a thing is enormous, almost as enormous as the freight load of assumptions that come with it.

Here are places I liked in 2016-2017:

  • Supino. Reheated slice. Doesn’t matter what’s on it.
  • La Rondinella. Now closed. Gnocchi. That pairing of anchiovata and a Monday glass of Boschis’ Pianezzo from a bottle opened prior to the weekend. Pulpete. Stuffed squid. Arugula salad.
  • The Gaelic League Fish Fry Fridays during Lent. It’s not wrong to join this fish with Slow’s remoulade and drink the best draft Guinness in the state.
  • El Rodeo. Shrimp tacos. Some say fish tacos. Definitely burrito de cabeza when mom is working.
  • Katoi. Green cocktail with hot chili. Mutton. Pretty much anything.
  • Supermercado La Jalisciense. This year I counted on the tacos de lengua, as well as the occasional torta de pollo milanesa.
  • Mabel Gray. I shouldnt have to tell you this. If Paul offers you a choice of raw shucked oysters and oysters baked with miso butter, you get the oysters baked with miso butter. James wouldn’t do something to a perfectly good oyster without a damned good reason. Also Rachel has the best wine.
  • Gold Cash Gold. Skurnik’s grower champagnes sold at the bar for retail prices. New chef of locally proven talent doing things with sharp knives.
  • Johnny Noodle King. Happy hour $2 over pour of Japanese sake with torched mackerel. Broth of pigs heads any time.
  • El Asador. Luis was nailing it this week. Charred red rib steaks with poblano cream. Lobster quesedilla, Queso fundido, Tacos de Cayos, Cazuela Mariscos, Guacamole en la Mesa.
  • Roast. Mr. Allerton worked on pairings with different styles of sherry, taking risks only to ace them in style.
  • Happy 4 Liquor. Best shawarma certainly within a bike ride.
  • Wasabi. One of the best thing about this place is the haters. They are not good people and I don’t want to eat near them. Comfort sushi, keep it medium-simple.
  • Chartreuse.
  • Selden Standard. Ritterguts Gose paired with any lunch food inspires the use of the the word “champagne” as an adjective.



Help Find a Word

I’m looking for a word.

This word should describe the feeling of abandonment/panic one gets when made to imagine living in a world of the known past, especially one fitted with a full range of obsolete communication technology.

Taken individually, the reintroduction of vinyl records, or cassette tapes, or antique video game consoles, can seem fun and ironic. (We might need to talk about that too.) But in a world made thoroughly of these implements – along with rotary corded phones, VHS tapes, Yellow Pages – there can arise a feeling of sickness, like a loss of the goal.

The nausea of lapsed technology.

A good illustration of this concept for a 1980s teenager is watching Napoleon Dynamite in 2017. I do remember watching it in 2005 and the feeling was of overwhelming cuteness. Now it is stomach-turning. Something about the alienation of this retroworld has intensified in the intervening decade.

Sure, many works of literature conjure worlds of the past, complete in every technical detail. But typically these aren’t claustrophobic. The typical period-piece pastiche of retrograde implements and patterns are part of a contract, part of the suspension of disbelief. It serves as authentication and insurance, and we engage with it only marginally.

The feeling I am describing may be related to an emotional pathway associated with other time vectors directed, for example, toward the future not the past: the panic of being failed in a school grade and held back while your peers advance; the sensation after the age of 30 when you are still at a party with beta type desperation-fueled radicalism suddenly evident as the only solution to being stuck.

But those are different words, for another post. This one is more specific.

Often help with such a task comes from German, that agglutinative aunt of English. 


… tesh-neek-ent-frem-doong-ake-el


What do you think?


Current listening



We Square?

I took a break from wine buying. So I logged off the social media. It feels strange, like a psychic amputation. I have this false limb that keeps trying to share square-shaped* snapshots on the internet.



The winter solstice is prettier than the summer solstice. This is a fact.


*Did a voice in your head, or even in your mouth, utter a correction for this phrase? “OMG, what bad schooling, it’s called ‘aspect ratio’” Your virtue signaling is so ingrained, you are doing it even to yourself! 



Vine varieties – like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah – predominately serve as terms for a given wine’s stylistic character. Varieties – in our world – are also still implicitly used as markers of quality; some are noble, some proletarian. One unintended consequence is a distortion of demand for fashionable varieties, revelations about the constraints on supply, and the inevitable degradation of value. Of course this feeds a cycle of fashion, and many of the good things we drink today arguably illustrate the benefits of this creative destruction.

Varietalism has always been a gross simplification. And now, in the age of DNA testing, we are beginning to learn just how misleading this regime has been.

Continue reading