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?)



Italian Wines from Ryan White

This will be one of the greatest tastings ever hosted by Mudgie’s.



Producer: Ornello Molon
Region: Piave, Veneto
Grape: Raboso
Type: 2011 Frizzante
Link: Molon
Price: (Reg. $16) only $7 while supplies last

Producer: Adriano Adami
Region: Treviso, Veneto
Grape: Prosecco
Name: NV Garbel
Link: Adam
Price: $10, 375ml



Producer: Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona
Region: Montalcino, Tuscany
Grape: Sangiovese Grosso
Name: 2012 Rosso di Montalcino
Link: Indigenous Selections
Price: $22

Producer: COS
Region: Vittoria, Sicily
Grapes: Frappato and Nero d’Avola
Name: 2012 Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico
Link: COS
Price: $39



Producer: Paolo Bea
Region: Montefalco, Umbria
Grapes: 60% Sangiovese, 10% Montepulciano, 30% indigenous varieties incl. Sagrantino
Name: 2009 Umbria Rosso, San Valentino
Link: Paolo Bea great photos
Price: $39

Producer: Cappellano
Region: Langhe, Piedmont
Grapes: Nebbiolo plus natural flavors
Name: Barolo Chinato
Link: Sedimentary Wines
Price: $59
This is the original Barolo Chinato, made by the secret family recipe since the 1890s. An infusion of Barolo with neutral spirit, quinine bark, clove, wormwood and cinnamon and a small amount of cane sugar

Rachel’s Michigan

Image - Version 2

This Monday 18 April 2016, starting at 5pm, and lasting as long as the weather cooperates – probably the most important wine event ever to happen at Mudgie’s. I say that because nothing else we’ve ever done had the potential to transform so much jaded wine thinking and to expand and perpetuate all of the humane virtues associated with wine drinking and agriculture. And it is timed to coincide with a common service industry off-day. $15. Package deals available for restaurant and retail teams.


Michigan Wine

Are you like me? Did you want to love Michigan wine? Did you try and try and try? Did you find one or two interesting things along the way? I remember drinking a Mawby Vignoles blend under a lighthouse back when Larry still made still wine. And I consider Dan Matthias, Warren Raftshol and Jim Lester brilliant artisans, perhaps moreso due to their perilous grip with Quixote’s ghost.

But then there was the formative experience of touring the tasting rooms and leaving with a trunk full of wine. When I got home and began opening bottles I wondered what had come over me! Trillium? Really?! (It’s tourism bias, and it can happen in any region.)

I grew tired of getting beaten up by civic-minded wine educators for not jumping on the Michigan bandwagon. I even developed a response to the perpetual question: what do you think of Michigan wine, Putnam?

My answer: Michigan would be a perfect place to produce hard cider. (I used the conditional because this was 2004. Now we know.)


Rachel Van Til

Rachel Van Til is the sommelier at the celebrated Hazel Park restaurant, Mabel Gray, where her list includes daring and brilliant selections from all over the world. (The 2014 Chateau Simone Rosé was un-effing-forgettable!)

Rachel is also my oracle for Michigan wine.


Rachel embodies a rare combination of independence, intelligence, and experience. She worked at Trattoria Stella in Traverse City and at Bowers Harbor where the Black Label series of wines is produced. When she tastes them she allows herself to be rigorously critical without any cost to pleasure and sentience.

This is how a fertile mind drinks wine. I depend on such people, though I am not sure I can find an equivalence in this case.

On 18 April Rachel will guest-curate a selection of meaningful Michigan wines for Mudgie’s Detroit Deli. There will be about eight wines and we will meet on the big patio beginning at 5pm.

Prepare to have your mind blown. I’m talking to you, orange-wine-drinking slavophiles!


Know Your Importer/Curator

There is a theme developing throughout the series of Mudgie’s wine events. Of course we focus on the usual quality variables – the farmers, the microbes, geology, history, etc. But one of the most crucial variables is the act of selecting, assembling and delivering the wine. This is a creative process; if one wine has meaning, then a set of wines can have the potential to tell a story.

I probably wouldn’t drink much European wine if it weren’t for the curatorial brilliance of importers like deGrazia, Kermit, Dressner, and de Maison. And with Rachel’s help, I can finally love wines from my home state.



Reputable Rosé


Whither Rosé?

Rosé wine emerged from a near-death experience in the 1990s. Back then it was stigmatized by its association with White Zinfandel, a category embodying the race-to-the-bottom mentality which characterizes price-driven, low-information markets.

Something similar had happened to pizza before it got better.

But pockets of resistance survived, mostly in Provence in southern France. Vineyards groomed over centuries to produce great rosé wine simply continued doing so. Prices were stagnant, but what could a farmer do? Those with the weakest claim on quality jumped on other trending categories – like Merlot, and Chardonnay – and that had the effect of raising the average quality of the remaining pink-colored wines.

Smart drinkers with access learned to seek out these rosé wines and even make them a major part of the household diet. The booming sommelier culture eventually caught on, and then the journalists, culminating in a famous cover story in the New York Times Sunday Magazine in 2006, “The Summer Drink to Be Seen With.” Link here.

In the past ten years the pendulum has swung to a certain degree in the other direction. With a robust and expanding market for rosé wine, there is suddenly a supply without end. And it turns out there are all kinds of obnoxious ways to produce rosé. We are currently surrounded by harsh, manipulated pink wines, many of which result as a byproduct of complacent red wine production.

So has the circle closed? Are we back to an era like that of the industrial White Zin?


Two Hands

On the one hand, obstructing the decline is the fact that unlike the 1980s and 1990s, the average consumer has access to much more, and much more accurate information.

On the other hand, the dumbing down of rosé is intrinsic to the spirit of rose itself. Rosé when it’s great is inherently fun, beautiful, and humorous. This is just as true for Chateau Simone and Viña Tondonia as it is for Vin Gris de Cigare. How can the prosaic considerations of soil drainage and vine selection compete with the immediate euphoria of drinking the wine, with good company, and fresh food?

Essentially this is a question of markets. We are in an era when price differentiation is crucial to sustaining the production of the best and most interesting rose wines. We are also breaking away from the idea that all things called “rosé” must strive to resemble Domaine Tempier.


Drink and Decide

Tonight at 6pm at Mudgie’s we taste six exceptional pink-colored wines of diverse style.

These all come from a warm band of climate which promotes physiological ripeness. For these wines to be balanced the grapes must be harvested at a degree of ripeness that would be inappropriate for red wine production. Without support from skin tannins, they must have a certain degree of natural acidity.

A note about tasting order. You might notice that these are graduated from the most robust to the most intricate and delicate. You might expect the order to go in the other direction. However, for this lineup I am banking on the importance of pedigree. Always drink up the hierarchy, it’s the only way to fairly show all of the wines.

Here they are:


2015 A Proper Pink, Bonny Doon. $13 retail – $11.70 tonight only
Made with Tannat and Cabernet Franc, A big mouthful or berry flavors and just a hint of grapefruit. This is a brand new wine from Bonny Doon. more here

2013 Lake Michigan Shore Rosé, Marland. $18 retail – $16.20 tonight only
Cabernet Franc made by local hero and vin savant James Lester of Wyncroft. This wine has been groomed and extracted to function almost as a light-textured red wine. Don’t serve it too cold or you’ll miss the exuberant and sublime red fruits and spices. more here 


2014 Etna, Cottanera Barbazzale. $16 retail – $14.40 tonight only
Farmed on the northern slope of Mount Etna in Sicily and made with indigenous Nerello Mascalese grape variety. It is full-flavored and polished, and appropriately paired with southern Italian foods including spicy chiles. more here

2014 Toscana, Fattoria Sardi. $19 retail – $17.10 tonight only
Mostly Sangiovese, Merlot and Ciliegiolo. Sometimes it takes the resources of a big wine company to take the risks necessary and deliver the rewards possible with very good rosé. Notice how it charms your palate, requiring very little attentiveness to enjoy it. But go ahead and examine the flavors, they occur in layers exquisitely proportional and balanced. more here


2015 Tavel, Domaine Mejan Taulier, Canto Perdrix. $17 retail – $15.30 tonight only
Grenache, Cinsault, and other traditional Rhone grapes. This wine is kind of a secret still. The property had a very good reputation until 2007 when the second generation of the Mejan-Taulier line passed away. As sometimes happens in such transitions, quality and direction sometimes seemed questionable. Now a new winemaker has suddenly and dramatically put it back on track. The market will eventually realize this and both price and scarcity is likely to increase. This is quintessential and very youthfully fresh Tavel. It makes me laugh when I drink it. more here

2014 Côtes de Provence, Clos Cibonne. $26 retail – $23.60 tonight only
This is the darling of Detroit rosé wine drinkers. A small estate in Provence farming the heirloom grape variety known as Tibouren, the wine is aged in large wooden vessels and under varying degrees of fleurette, which is a naturally occurring aerobic microbial culture. This is a fascinating combination of delicacy and complexity. more here





of Grace

…today is Easter in the western churches…


Know Your Importer, Vol. 3

Why should a consumer learn the name of a wine importer? Much has been written about this, and over a long time. Short version: know your importers because your wine purveyor knows them. An honest shop or somm has nothing to hide in this regard. Here are my current thoughts:

Making good wine requires two things.

  1. fortune – from the dirt, to the biome, to the bank – and,
  2. humanity – a cluster of virtues combining self awareness with selflessness, and  thriving in a medium of consciousness expanding.

Most important of all is the latter applied to the former: the awareness of one’s fortune and the ability to resist trying to capture it.

This can help explain why so many great wine properties change hands only to fail immediately and horribly. The new regime with all its vigor is no match for the old in situ. Stars in the eyes and rolls of cash are no substitute for experience making decisions with worms.

Wine requires grace.

Vino di grazia.


Know Your Merchant

Some people in the wine trade talk only about the the wine (points! gobs!), and if they are really smart, sometimes about the farmer (a personality cult), but never about the people selling, collecting and drinking it – and by doing so they are really talking only about themselves. It is selflessness serving an egocentric relationship with (the art form).

It is a fiction that great wines are like perfect jewels snatched from space and time, summoned before our poses of supplication, and grandiose tithes, by faces so dim as to be blank. The act of enjoying wine is elemental to its existence in the first place.

Wine tells a story, and the people building collections of it are also telling a story. It might be a remix, a collage, a mosaic, a pastiche or an ekphrasis. Often these people are in the studio mixing the paint.

Ponder, there are 26 letters in the alphabet and never a shortage of new ways to combine them.


A Quotation from the Fine Art Racket

“I select the selectors, so I control the operation,” she says. “You don’t keep a dog and bark yourself. But I know what they know and I know where they go.” -Gill Hedley on her team of curators for the CAS

Emphasis added.


Missing the Point

It used to madden me when I would suggest that a distributor of the great French wines from Louis/Dressner should also carry the newer, but just as thrilling, Italian wines from the same source.

“But we already have Italian wine,” was the answer. Sure,they had a couple things, and a lot of filler, but not these. I was suffocating from Italian wine starvation!

It wouldn’t have been so bad, but at the time I was also lacking steady access to the  reigning portfolio of great wines from the nation of Italy: Marc deGrazia.

Marco de Grazia began importing Italian wine in 1980, a first of its kind in that it eschewed anything but the most gorgeous and authentic of estate wines. By the mid 1990s Marco was a star in his own right – or at least he was amongst the masses of sommeliers and buyers who would attend his tastings and patiently await their allocations of rare and limited items.

If you didn’t know about deGrazia Selections already, please let me introduce you. These are dynamic, diverse, humorous, numerous and sincere wines. Based on the prices they fetch, I can only conclude that the American market is absurdly unaware of their merit as a group of drinks.


Unsolicited Advice

Try sharing credit. It feels good. Maybe it can prepare you emotionally to identify with your guests.

Or don’t share credit. Or share it only with your protected objects of exploitation.


Credit where credit is due.

The Art of Collecting Art. It exists.




Now Offering Degrees

A Wine Monkey degree (WM) from our academy is awarded to scholars who have demonstrated 1) a strong theoretical and personal understanding of homo sapiens in the evolutionary biological order, 2) knowledge of the unwavering rules of cladistics (esp. monophyletic heirarchy), and 3) evidentiary rules for evaluating cultural objects, especially wine, as a monkey. Our graduates know they are monkeys and are appropriately empowered as monkeys.

A Wine Hobo degree (WH) from our academy is awarded to a WM who has demonstrated useful knowledge of a specific non-virtual market environment. Wine Hobos know where to look, who to ask, how to maximize the effective use of resources, and must show an ability to help others navigate their chosen environment. Migration is not required of a WH. A practical understanding of the Hobo Code is required.

A Wine Sherpa degree (WS) is awarded to a WH who contributes to the local wine environment in a way that promotes social, psychic and individual well-being at large, regardless of socioeconomic status, or position in the production and distribution chain. A WS appears to ignore self interest for the sake of summoning muses, enhancing sex lives, and generalizing a state of ecstasy and euphoria for all monkeys.

Our Academy is now accepting applicants. Please submit your application in person or electronically. Enhance your probability of admission to our academy by presenting text in reference to the image immediately below:


Neighborhood Wine – Mudgie’s Part 2

January 2016 –I love every wine available by the glass (BTG) at Mudgie’s. I know this is self-serving, but it would be just as true if you wrote this list and if you served lunch here. Anyway, if you eat and drink at Mudgie’s, you are directly participating in the process of selection, even if you opt for Hamm’s and a water.

Granted, for someone this jaded to be so excited about every item offered, the list will necessarily be brief. You could say short. There are six specified wines, plus one always-changing wild card. That’s seven wines, plus estate-grown cava on weekends. Call it concise.

Here’s the improbable thing. Every single one of the “permanent” six belong to the most mainstream of call-categories: Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sweet White, House Red, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon.

And without undermining the compelling appeal of these call wines, the seventh ad hoc selection is the biggest call category of them all. The non-call. The deviant. The subversive. #7 is dedicated to provide an example of the benefits of violating mass market categories.

Let’s go through this item-by-item, shall we?

Sauvignon is misunderstood. It is a workhorse in the vineyard. It is assertive and polarizing. It tends to get caught in a self-reinforced cycle of industrial farming and potent aroma branding. The biggest dumbest Sauvignon wines reek of grapefruit. This obviousness is easily compatible with short, shallow wine-splanations, and so the call is made. Meanwhile, the domineering grapefruit character is a convenient symptom of shortcuts in production. Rinse. Repeat. Continue reading