New Chapters

(Above: sort of a self-portrait from a recent trip to the Grand Canyon. Man, that place is awesome! Also, it ties the UN’s FAO headquarters in Rome for language diversity.)

As some of you already know, I recently left Wine & Spirits, where I have been, successively (and oftentimes simultaneously) a tastings coordinator, editor, staff writer and critic for the better part of the last five years. But now it’s time to move on, and I’ll be joining my friends in the trenches and hitting the streets of San Francisco to pimp wine. Of course, I plan to continue writing — especially here — but also in venues on subjects where there’s no conflict of interest. (And if any of the wines discussed, reviewed or profiled on this site happen to be those that I represent, then I will make that distinction quite clear.)

It’s no secret that times are tough in journalism, publishing and the wine industry (and elsewhere). And where those three subjects come together, well, let’s just say it’s been particularly tough. But I will say that for wine at least, there’s real strength to be found in the people and relationships that make up this business. I’ve worked in wine for over a decade, for the entire ‘aughts’ or whatever the fuck they’re called, and I’m constantly impressed, engaged, and then re-engaged by the relationships formed over those years.

That I believe is the wine industry’s true gift to world commerce and culture — sure, the latest and greatest vintages matter, but at the end of the day it’s the workers picking and pruning vineyards, the cellar crews lugging hoses, winemakers tasting their blends, distributors and reps out working the streets, somms and servers working tables, and retailers walking their aisles, that keep this whole thing going. Nature may make the grapes into wine, but it takes women and men to move it, to build excitement stoke the passions of the people drinking it.

I’m grateful for all the support shown by folks in the industry during these past few days. It’s why I love this business.

Thank you all, and here’s to a great new year!

Depeche Mode’s version of the classic ‘Route 66’ – good times!

(Above: I snapped this pic of tired old cars along historic Route 66 somewhere in Arizona.)

Meet me at the El Tovar (Just don’t even think of bringing your own wine)

Greetings from the Vortex! I’m currently posting from Sedona, Arizona, home to stunning rock formations, a spiritual/energy vortex or two, and a big rock formation called the Bell, which some people believe houses a fleet of alien spaceships that will one day take over the Earth. Hizzah!

You’d think that a state that’s home to a world-famous resort town like Sedona (to say nothing of the Grand Canyon) might be rather progressive when it comes to bringing in your own juice to dinner, but alas, that’s not the case. A call to El Tovar, the Grand Canyon’s ‘fine dining’ restaurant (tip: skip it), revealed that BYOB is against the law. All bottles served require a sticker that proves the bottle was purchased by the license holder. Interesting.

Now this may just apply to operators in national parks, but it still struck me as strange, especially the sticker part. How easy it is to forget that California is a bubble when it comes to this sort of thing. (My Pennsylvania friends can now chime in.)

And yes, I did bring along a case of tasty wine on our southwest roadtrip. But we’ll be drinking it all in hotel rooms.

(Below: Hofstatter’s elegantly spicy 2005 Kolbenhof Gewurztraminer with a the fake fireplace raging in the background)

Of course, the real reason to be here is the Grand Canyon: