Cougar Beat: More From the Field at WSWA

It’s not all speeches and booze bottles shaped like weapons for Cougar Beat at the annual WSWA convention in Las Vegas. This time, our intrepid reporter sends word direct from the exhibition floor:

Highlights from the exhibition floor: Jello shots that require no refrigeration, 30 proof whipping cream in five flavors, a caffeinated RTD branded “Jakk’d” and the delightful lady hawking a ‘purple hooter’ in packaging akin to a large mustard packet. She said that the product retails for 99 cents beacuse “you gotta keep it cheap for the kids.”

At last, five flavors of 30 proof whipping cream!

Luckily, Cougar Beat stumbled on something that was more to her taste:

On a serious note, Leblon Cachaca is making a drink in their suite with said cachaca, lemongrass, cucumber, lime and coconut foam. Outstanding cocktail. Not to be missed!

Coconut foam? We here at Spume HQ love our foams.


Guns, Knives and Tequila at WSWA: Cougar Beat’s New Favorite Booze

Feeling charged after Sarah Palin’s speech this morning, Cougar Beat hit the floor at WSWA, where there can be exciting intersections of violence and alcohol.

The Beat reports: “Yes, the bottle is shaped like an AK-47. And that’s machete of tequila next to it.”

Be careful: Mention direct shipping here and someone will whack you with their tequila machete!

Cougar Beat: On the Prowl Live at WSWA

As some of you may know, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America is having its annual gathering in Las Vegas this week. This is where the distributor types come together for a series of meetings, tastings, back-room deals and good ol’ fashioned fun, Vegas style. Notable this year, of course, is the presence of Sarah Palin as the keynote speaker. Why Palin? Beats me because the whole organization is rather dude-heavy. But Mike Steinberger wrote an intelligent piece at Slate about the topic that’s worth a read.

Anyway, back to the point of this post. We here at Spume HQ, though we’ve never been to WSWA ourselves, have a plant at the convention. That’s right, we’ve embedded Cougar Beat our, erm, Vegas lifestyle correspondent. So, without further ado, we go to Cougar Beat’s live SMS dispatches from the conference: Continue reading

Authenticity in Italian Wine: Notes from My Panel at VINO 2010

As I mentioned earlier, I was in New York for much of last week at the Italian wine extravaganza, VINO 2010. While it was great to attend seminars, meet new producers and taste their wines, the reason I was there was to speak as part of a panel (full disclosure: I was paid to participate). Our session was titled Transparency, Traceability, and Wine: the Italian Appellation of Origin System, and it certainly inspired a lively round of discussion.

I don’t have full notes on what was said, but I thought I would post the written text of what I’d prepared for the session. Feel free to chime in with discussion, comments, etc.

Note: Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, a Franciacorta producer and a representative of FederDOC, the body that oversees the Italian appellation system, pointed out that the rules for each appellation are agreed upon from the bottom up; in other words, the producers of a particular region determine the appellation rules amongst themselves. I overlooked this point but it did come rushing back when I recalled that members of the Brunello Consortium voted to not change the rules of the appellation and allow grapes other than sangiovese in the production of Brunello di Montalcino.

Anyway, here’s the text I prepared (after the jump):

Continue reading

Zinfandel and Kink: An S&M Wine Tasting

We San Franciscans love our wine. And we love our kinky sex. Apparently, we also like to combine the two.

From SFist comes word of the Wine & Rope tasting at local gallery, Femina Potens. And what are they tasting? Why zinfandel of course!

Go here to read more.

I might add that the crew over at SFist is taking a rather, well, sexualized view of wine lately. Besides revealing the bondage qualities inherent to big, bad, dirty zinfandel, they’ve portrayed chardonnay (of the California extraction) as the drink of whores.

VinItaly 2009: Some Impressions

There’s a new post up at Wine & Spirits with some of my impressions from the recent wine fairs in Verona, including VinItaly and Vini Veri. It’s a q&a format although how I managed to squeeze in time to answer everything during a recent marathon tasting of Italian wine in New York is beyond me. Anyway, one of the things that struck me most during this past trip to Verona is that the region in early April is a lot like the Edinburgh during the Festival and Fringe, which I had a chance to experience during my university days at St. Andrews (just up the coast from Edinburgh).

The Festival was once a singular theater/opera event happening every year in August; over time a festival Fringe developed that has since become larger than the original Festival. The net result is a massive cultural happening — mostly theater but really every kind of performance, including music, film and even bagpipes — that takes over the entire city for two weeks at the end of summer.

Verona is now sort of a vinous equivalent, with the natural wine fairs Vini Veri (which was greatly expanded this year) and Vin Natur, as well as Summa, which happens about 90 minutes outside of town in Alto Adige. A busy time to be sure, but also an amazing opportunity to taste some incredible wine and talk directly with producers, making it well worth the effort to get there.

(Click here to read the post at Wine & Spirits.)

The Best Fish Tacos on the Central Coast

Playing hooky is something I learned the value of a long time ago. It often brings new perspectives through serendipity, which is exactly what happened this past Saturday during the annual World of Pinot Noir festival in Pismo Beach. Before the grand tasting started, a small group of us headed over to the charming hamlet of Avila Beach where we’d heard there was a good fish shack at the end of the pier, some place called Pete’s Pierside Café.

So off we went thinking, hey, beers and fish tacos, what could be better? We got that, but we got so much more.

pete's menu

As you can see from the menu of specials above, this was no ordinary pierside taco shack. Chanterelle enchiladas smothered in a vibrant green sauce, housemade chips, halibut tacos, wild salmon tacos (I raised an eyebrow at this, given the collapse of the Pacific salmon run), an array of pickled vegetables and salsas, and, seen below, pescado entero, a whole, crispy fried fish served with rice and beans and steaming corning tortillas. Shred with a fork, build your own taco.

whole fish

Note to Tyler: We talked about food and wine pairings here, but really, Tecate in a can is where it’s at! And yes, that’s a 22-oz can…

*We felt like copying the local seal population after lunch but as the little guy in the water can attest, there just wasn’t any room on the dock under the pier.


(NB: For another Central Coast hole-in-wall Mexican seafood experience, it’s hard to beat El Lugarcito in King City.)

Is Corkscrew a Yoga Pose?


(Above: My new favorite corkscrew.)

I spent most of last week in the Napa Valley at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, to which I’d won a fellowship. The symposium takes place at Meadowood and the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone (CIA) campus, and like other retreats of its kind, it’s an opportunity to step out of the whirlwind of deadlines and day-to-day stress to focus on the craft of writing.

It also gave me the excuse to wander around the CIA and check out their collection of wine-related historical knickknacks, such as the mermaid corkscrew above. I believe the worm really is coming out of her breasts, although her creator felt the need to position her hands just so in order to maintain some modesty.

Later on, I found myself thinking of the mermaid when I read an account of the Sixth Annual International Yoga Asana Championship on Slate. (There’s some amazing, if freaky, video at that website, not to mention a yoga disco soundtrack; check it out). Anyway, I do yoga regularly, and while I’m the first to admit that the physical and mental aspects of it are deeply rewarding, the whole thing can seem rather culty, especially here in California. But I had no idea there was a competitive circuit of yoga!

As you might imagine, the whole thing sounds strangely, wonderfully bizarre. From the article on Slate:

To those of us who’ve spent years practicing yoga in an atmosphere of soft-lit candles, chanting, and nonjudgmental good vibes, the idea of a yoga competition sounds about as absurd as the idea of competitive prayer. On my way to the 6th Annual International Yoga Asana Championship, held at the Westin Hotel LAX on the weekend of Feb. 7, I steeled myself to bear witness to some sort of whacked-out yoga circus, and that’s more or less what I got. But a lot of yoga culture feels weird and circuslike to me anyway, so I would have felt disappointed if it had ended up being otherwise. I can now also tell you that there’s a chance competitive yoga will soon be an official event at the Summer Olympics.

At the center of the weekend, wearing flashy suits and various fedoras, stood Bikram Choudhury, the animating force behind the competitive yoga circuit. Here’s a man who’s copyrighted his style of yoga (26 postures, repeated twice, in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit), sends cease-and-desist letters to those who dare flout the copyright, and, in interviews, summarily dismisses all other forms of American yoga while also bragging about his love for McDonald’s and his large fleet of self-restored Rolls-Royces. He once famously told Business 2.0 magazine that his yoga was the “only yoga.” When asked why, he said it was because he has “balls like atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each. Nobody fucks with me.” Not surprisingly, other yoga circles view him and his particular craft with everything from mildly dismissive amusement to a disdain coming close to disgust.

Continuing on to the competition itself:

When I returned the next morning, the room had been transformed into a legitimate athletic stage, with no evidence of the previous night’s variety-show nuttiness save a few stray red balloons in the rafters. Everything ran with precision and efficiency. The video and audio were of professional quality and the emcee had a classy, sonorous voice. Most impressively, the competitors, judged under strict and consistent standards, continually wafted into beautiful and magnificent yoga postures.

I should add that in the display case next to the one containing the mermaid corkscrew, there’s a collection of various non-corkscrew wine openers, mostly gas and or air pump numbers. A casual glance, however, could easily lead one to an entirely different set of conclusions. Was I at the Culinary Institute of America or Good Vibrations?


A Wedding Reception, and Everyone’s Invited

I don’t usually post about wine events, but I thought this was pretty cool. Cav Wine Bar & Kitchen here in San Francisco will host a reception beginning at 12 noon tomorrow for all the June 17th newlyweds married at nearby City Hall (map), as well as any well-wisher who wants to stop by and toast to marriage equality.

*The California Supreme Court voted in May to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Today’s Chronicle has a lead story describing the long road to this moment, as well as what lies ahead. Link here.

Tomorrow’s event is co-sponsored by Heidsieck & Co. Monopole Champagne, and Cav will donate 10 percent of all June retail sales of this Champagne to Equality California. Here’s the official announcement from the folks over at Cav:

CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen

Summer of Love Redux Party

Hosted by CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen, Pamela S. Busch, Debbie Chaw, Michael Costa, Rhett Currier, Marla Jurosek and Kirk Salanga

Co-sponsored by Heidsieck & Co Monopole Champagne

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Whether or not you tie the knot, please join our Summer of Love Redux celebrating the first day of legalized same sex marriages in California. Everyone is welcome. The festivities begin at noon, when we will open, and will last throughout the day and into the evening. DJ Kid Gorgeous is going to get the party going at 8 pm. Ten percent of the proceeds from this celebration will go to Equality California,

Need Champagne?

Throughout June, July and August, CAV will donate ten percent of all retail sales of Heidsieck & Co Monopole Blue Top Champagne to Equality California. This is a delicate, delicious Champagne that is especially good during the warm months.
$34 per bottle, $360 case.
To order please email or call (415) 437-1770.

CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen

1666 Market Street (Gough), San Francisco, CA 9410

(415) 437-1770 p, (415) 437-1771 f

Critical Wine ’08 Verona: Canceled


(Above: the entrance to Ex-Forte Prenestino, the Roman centro sociale that regularly hosts Critical Wine in Italy’s capital city)

The city of Verona buzzes with activity during the annual VinItaly fair (April 3-7), and besides the big fair itself, there’s any number of off-campus events happening at all hours every day. In a post from last year, Terry Hughes over at Mondosapore discusses the explosion of tangential events around VinItaly, likening the din and excitement to the fantastic Edinburgh Fringe Festival. An apt comparison if you ask me, where literally the fringe elements themselves are a big draw for the crowds.

One of the first parallel events during VinItaly was Critical Wine, a loose left-wing collective of artists, anarchists and enogastronomes (among others). I’ve written about Critical Wine in Wine & Spirits and on this blog, and the event has also turned up elsewhere in the wine blogosphere (here and here).

Unfortunately this year’s Critical Wine–at least the Verona manifestation of it–is canceled. According to an email I received from a member of Verona’s La Chimica centro sociale, the original host site for the event, Critical Wine won’t be happening next week because the city authorities closed down La Chimica and the Critical Wine folks have not been able to find an alternative venue. I’m sure there’s more of a story here: the language my contact used in his email was harsh (“La chimica è stata sgomberata e rasa al suolo dal nuovo sindaco leghista/fascista“), essentially labeling the mayor of Verona a fascist. But then that is in keeping with ideology of Critical Wine, a movement born out of the fiery passions of the Italian anarchist left.

Despite this setback, another edition of Critical Wine is scheduled for May 9-11 at the centro sociale Magazzino 47 in Brescia, according to my contact. (A look at Magazzino 47’s website shows that Crtical Wine is scheduled for one day, March 28, with no listings beyond mid-April; perhaps it’s happening in both months?).

One can’t help but wonder if the group has hit a major snag: in addition to the cancellation of the Verona event, Critical Wine’s website is at present shut down. Communication problems, it seems, plague the group more so than regional authorities.

Perhaps the diffusion of events during VinItaly–many of which espouse some of the founding principles of Critical Wine like minimalist winemaking, organic farming, etc.–has indeed caught up with itself?


(Above: Critical Wine from the inside, Rome 2004)