Search Results for: Arizona

Arizona Riesling Diary: Day 2 – How AZ is About to Change the Way We Think about American Wine

Fully aware of the journalist’s saying that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, I must report that during a generous and rather tasty dinner last night at The Asylum Restaurant in the Jerome Grand Hotel I had a moment of revelation about #AZwine. In fact, there were two moments, one of which was directly the responsibility of Maynard James Kennan, the man pictured above, the second of which he was indirectly responsible for. You can look up more biographical information on this winemaker and rock musician on the internet than I can usefully give you here, so let’s go to the wines that convince me Arizona is about to change the way we think about American wine.

The first moment of revelation when I tasted the first white wine with dinner, the 2013 “Meskeoli” from Dos Cabezas Wine Works in Sonoita down in the southeast of the state, which managed to be simultaneously bold and richly expressive, but also cool and lively. The back label detailed a blend of grape varieties so crazy and complex that not only could I never have dreamed it up, but I can’t understand how anyone managed to get all those components to give a wine so precisely balanced and delicate in flavor. Amongst them was 15% of Riesling, that somehow seamlessly ran through the body of the wine like a silver thread. The majority of the blend was composed of Picpoul, Viognier, Roussanne, plus a splash each of Albarino, Muscat and Malvasia. I would place this wine firmly in the Mediterranean-type dry whites category, but I don’t know anything else in that category that comes close to this. Congratulations are due to Todd and Kelly Bostock for this delicious curveball of a wine!

They are good friends of Maynard’s and that was, I guess, as much the reason their wine being on the table as its inherent quality, but that is not the issue. I was far from being alone in singing its praises. The same could be said of the 2012 “Kitsuné” Sangiovese red from Maynard’s own Caduceus Cellars here in Jerome, a slightly eccentric corner of which is pictured above. American Sangiovese usually taste a bit tart, lean and rough, even when it manages to have 13.5% natural alcohol like this wine. There wasn’t a hint of that in this wine, also sourced from a vineyard in the far south of the state. Instead it had the ripest and brightest cherry aroma wrapped in a slew of dark aromas that ranged from violet to star anise. And I promise you all that I’m not the guy who normally writes descriptors like that. It was seriously tannic, but those dry tannins were wrapped in something that felt like velvet on my tongue, so that even at this young age the wine slipped down almost effortlessly while touching nerves I didn’t know American Sangiovese could reach.

Of course, dinner had been bought for us all and there’s no denying the intention of this on Maynard’s part was to impress us. Please dismiss all the above if you think the situation makes the impressions I gained invalid, but in that case you might have to permanently avoid this blog. You see, if I think that it helps me find out something valuable I am going to let a winemaker entertain me, and I will always bring my own attitude to that dinner table. I think that it is also significant that several other wines were served that were either very good but not mind-blowing, and one (the 2013 Dos Ladrones, a dry white from Caduceus Cellars made from a 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Malvasia) that was technical spot on, but left me cold. That strike rate tells me that the best winemakers of this state are just getting into their stride. However, it already seems clear that the best wines of the future from here will not be pure varietal Cabernets, Merlots or Chardonnays, but will lie outside the current American Wine Box in which most of the nation is drinking. For #AZwine to be fully successful it will have to persuade some of them to drink outside that box with relish.

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Arizona Riesling Diary: Day 1 – AZ Contradictions as Seen from the Gonzo Perspective (Part 2)

Of course, this is how many readers imagine my trip thru Arizona in search of unknown  Great American Wine, and, as you can gather from this photograph which I took on Highway 17 heading north from Phoenix to Jerome this afternoon, at least some of the time it looked exactly the way you expect. However, beforehand at the 6th Annual Festival at the Farm of the Arizona Wine Growers Association at Maya’s Farm in Phoenix, pictured below, it looked exactly the way you would imagine an al fresco wine tasting in California would. The wines were very different though, in fact they were very different from any other wines I’ve tasted from the Western side of the United States. Here the acidities are sometimes moderate, but rarely  too soft in the way they often are in California, and the best wines have a lively acidity that I found appealing rather than tart. I have to admit that the sample was a bit erratic, because I deliberately left out the wineries we’ll visit during the coming days, but I felt the pattern was rather clear. Only a couple of the wines – reds from low acid varieties like Grenache – were a little bit on the warm and broad side due to pronounced alcohol and lowish acidity.

This acidity was part of the explanation for several very good white wines I tasted, although none of the Rieslings were more than solid. The most delightfully surprising of these whites was the dry 2011 Chenin Blanc from Carlson Creek Vineyards close to Wilcox in the southeast of the state. It had attractive apple, pear and honeysuckle notes as well as a touch of what I call wet wool (a rather common aroma with this variety in my experience). Better still the wine was crisp and bright with a pronounced mineral freshness and the 13.5% wasn’t perceptible. A mineral flavor in a Chenin Blanc from Arizona! That was really a shocker in the most positive sense of that word.

No less striking was what the Pillsbury Wine Company in Cottonwood, a short drive south of Flagstaff, has done with a new white grape called Symphony during the last few years. The dry wine Sam Pillsbury made from it in 2012 was slightly reminiscent of a rich Gewürztraminer, but with more freshness and a great apricot aroma as well more spicy notes. In spite of 14.7% alcohol it was not heavy, finishing deliciously clean and fresh. The same winemaker’s 2013 “Sweet Lies” is also made from Symphony and the complex dried fruit aromas of that wine were stunning. If only it had a little more sweetness and a little less alcohol, then it would have a really satisfying balance and be a great sweet white, but in spite of that it didn’t have any alcoholic burn with 15%. That says how fundamentally right the combination of this location, this grape and this style are.

The drive north to Jerome was fascinating not just because of the frequently changing scenery, but also because the flow of no less fascinating stories from Maynard James Keenan of Caduceus Cellars, seen at the wheel in the above picture. Please be a little patient, because I’m still getting a grip on the multidimensional personality of this winemaker and musician in order to give you a story that doesn’t reduce him into a journalistic cardboard cutout. Here’s one of the phrase he uttered that I jotted down as sped across the dessert. “Rule one: be nice to other people. Rule two: don’t eat other people’s shit.” He meant it literally as well as metaphorically and saw no contradiction between those two rules. That’s Arizona at its best.

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Arizona Riesling Diary: Day 1 – AZ Contradictions as seen from the Gonzo Perspective (Part 1)

Welcome to green Phoenix! 

Normally, I reckon that the ideal blog posting is about a Great Wine Personality unfamiliar to the majority of readers and the ideal picture at the top of that ideal story is a photograph of that Great Wine Personality. Measured against that ideal this first posting from my Gonzo #AZwine Adventure is a major flop, and this journalistic undertaking perhaps doomed to abject failure. Let’s face it, that kind of failure is not exactly an All American option. However, only the above image can adequately convey my sense of shock when the sun came up this morning at The Legacy Resort in Phoenix and the landscape became clearly visible, in contrast to being bathed in a dull glow of streetlight when I arrived last night. And I promise you, that I didn’t tweak the above image with Photoshop, by which I mean that this is not the Kim Kardashian of lawns! That’s how it actually looked.

On the way to breakfast at Maya’s Farm with Gonzo PR David Furer (the organizer of this   press trip) I passed the totally contrasting chunk of landscape seen above. Cacti like these can make it here in Pheonix without any irrigation, because they’re perfectly adapted to this desert environment, but my guess is that at this nursery they’re probably befitting from a little bit of extra water out of the pipe to grow them faster. Nearly all the water in this city comes from the Colorado River, which is the prime water source for about 40 million people in seven states here in the Southwest. Californian agriculture, including grape growing in the Central Valley for cheap branded wines, also depends upon this H2O. On my early morning run I passed the canal that brings this water to Phoenix, but also a street called East Desert Drive and a real estate development called Villas at Tuscany. When I got to Maya’s Farm, one of the last urban gardens that survived the Sunbelt Boom, I found the rows of some member of the cabbage family (some kind of kale?) pictured below. The combination of all these things with the hyper-real greenness of the lawns at The Legacy adds up to a pile of AZ contradictions that I’m still trying to wrap my head around.

The question for me now is, of course, how wine fits into this landscape. How do vines adapt to these growing conditions? This morning at the Arizona Wine Growers Festival at the Farm, which is also at Maya’s, I will start figuring that out. During the excellent breakfast there – when did I last eat fried potatoes this early in the day?  – I heard that today temperatures will “only” go up into the lower 70s Fahrenheit today. However, the harvest here must have long finished (under much warmer conditions) and the contrast to the Big Freeze in most of the country is dramatic. Let’s face it, these are extreme growing conditions all the regular American stuff like those lawns is also extremely odd in this desert location.


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Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 4 – WEIN WEIBLICH Der Schlamm und Ich

Nonnberg Schlamm Für den Dokumentarfilm WEIN WEIBLICH arbeite ich dieses Jahr im Weinberg. Hier meine Gedanken zum zentralen Thema des Weinbaus: Schlamm. Wer interessiert ist unseren Projekt zu unterstützen kann auf den Link zu unseren Crowdfunding klicken. / This year for the documentary movie WINE, WOMEN, RHINE I’m cultivating a small vineyard in the Nonnberg site of Wicker at the eastern end of the Rheingau. Here, in German, are my thoughts on the vital subject of mud. I hope to be able to provide an English translation shortly. Anyone interested in supporting us should click on this link:


Scheiße! Der Schlamm hier im Weinberg schluckte mich und will mich nicht wieder los lassen. Wie ist das mir, einem Journalisten, der normalerweise Weine am Schreibtisch aus feinen Gläsern testet, passiert? Wie wurde dieser Schreibtisch-Tiger in ein Nilpferd verwandelt das fest im Schlamm steckt?

Es passierte mir nachdem ich heute anfing in „meinem“ Weinberg zu arbeiten. Das sind sechs Rebzeilen in der Spitzenlage Nonnberg, einem sanften Hang nahe der kleinen Weinstadt Wicker am unbekannten östlichen Rand des Rheingaus. Diesen Weinberg habe ich von dem Winzer Reiner Flick für dieses Jahr geliehen. Schon innerhalb einiger wenigen Minuten hafteten fette Klumpen von Schlamm an meinen Stiefeln. Meine Füße fühlte sich fünf Kilo schwerer und doppelt so breit an wie vorher. Noch schlimmer: egal wie ich meine Stiefel schüttelte klebten die Schlamm-Massen fest daran! Wie soll ich so arbeiten?

Wenn der Normalo an Weinbau denkt, dann kommt ihm ganz was anderes in den Sinn. Er sieht prächtige Bilder von der Weinlese im goldenen Herbst: goldenes Reblaub und goldene Trauben! Wegen der warmen Sonne des Altweibersommers sind alle Lesehelfer leicht bekleidet und fröhlich. So kann es im glücklichen Fall auch vorkommen, aber dies hier ist die nicht weniger reale verschlammte Kehrseite davon.

Als ich das erste mal hier arbeitete, vor zweieinhalb Wochen, herrschte Frühling. Die Sonne schien, es war mild, der Boden war trocken und blieb unter meinen Füßen stehen, statt sie zu verschlingen. Das waren angenehme Arbeitsbedingungen für den Rebschnitt – die erste große Arbeit des Winzerjahres – und ich kam dementsprechend gut damit voran. Und das, obwohl ich nur mit einer alten Rebschere ausgestattet war und aus der Übung bin. Vor neun Jahren schnitt ich zum letzten mal eine Rebe! Wie geht das?

Es ist schon schwierig genug mit einem solchen Gerät ein Stück Rebholz, welches zwei Zentimeter dick ist, durchzuschneiden. Um das zu schaffen muss man mit der Schere fest drücken und mit dem Ding „schaukeln“. Danach hat eine Dusche gut getan und ich litt unter etwas Muskelkater, aber ich war gut drauf – statt einem Häufchen Elend, wie ich mich jetzt fühle.

Lange Zeit war Schlamm dafür verantwortlich, dass Winzer kein cooler Beruf war. Das gute Gesellschaft hat alle Arten von Landwirtschaft für unter ihrer Würde betrachtet. Nach wie vor verstehen die wenigsten von ihnen überhaupt die Unterschiede zwischen Boden, Schlamm, Kompost, Mist und Scheiße, weil sie sich nicht damit auseinandersetzen wollen. Statt dessen neigen Normalos dazu sie alle als „Dreck“ zu bezeichnen, was fachlich gesehen Quatsch ist. Trotzdem ist Winzer Anfang des 21ten Jahrhunderts ein cooler Beruf geworden, weil es als kreativ gilt, bzw. in „Winemaking“ oder „Wein machen“ umgetauft wurde.

Das ist jetzt auch meine Aufgabe. Ich muss einen trockenen Weißwein aus der Riesling-Traube für den Film WEIN WEIBLICH erzeugen. Ich bin natürlich kein Weib aber die vier weiblichen Hauptfiguren des Films haben verlangt, dass ich genau das für die Kamera mache was sie auch tun. Und das habe ich anstandslos zugesagt, auch weil ich nicht diesen Schlamm erwartet habe. Meine vorherigen Übungen mit Weinbau waren in Lagen mit steinigen oder sandigen Böden die tendenziell nicht in fetten Klumpen an meinem Schuhwerk hafteten.

Das hier ist aber wirklich Winemaking! Denn ohne diese Arbeit tragen die Reben keine reifen Trauben und ohne reife Trauben gibt es keinen Wein – Basta! Aber auch ich verbinde Winemaking meistens mit schönen Holzfässern in einem prächtigen Weinkeller, aus dem Schmutz in jeglicher Art verbannt wurde. Auch vor meinem inneren Auge ist eine Probe des edlen Weins, die der Winemaker mit einer langen gläsernen Pipette aus dem Fass zieht, strahlend klar. Das ist natürlich so weit weg von Schlamm wie man sich nur vorstellen kann und das ist auch mein Ziel.

Der Weg zum Ziel ist aber auch für mich lang und „dreckig“. Mein Wein wird hoffentlich in etwas über einem Jahr genau so aussehen wenn ich eine Probe mit der langen gläsernen Pipette aus „meinem„ 500 Liter Holzfass im Keller vom Weingut Flick in Wicker ziehen werde. Dummerweise verwandeln sich Trauben nicht von selbst schlagartig in trinkfertige Weine verwandeln.

Zuerst muss der Most aus den Trauben durch die Kelterung gewonnen werden, was eine Menge Überreste (Beerenhaut, -Kerne und der Stilgerüst) hinterlässt, die schnell zu Matsch werden können. Dann vergärt die Hefe den Most zum Wein, was aber auch zu einer ganzen Menge schlammartigen Depots, bzw. tote Hefe führt. Das muss von dem jungen Wein getrennt werden, was auch nicht so einfach ist. Erst Monate nach der Traubenernte herrscht im Keller DAS was der Normalo unter Sauberkeit versteht. Dann folgt die Abfüllung, was wiederum zu anderen Arten von Schlamm führt. Aber dann hört es endlich damit auf!

Aber bevor ich damit überhaupt anfangen kann, muss ich x-mal während der nächsten sieben bis acht Monate hier im Weinberg arbeiten. Da die Rebe nicht wie Korn wächst, sondern eine ganz Menge Pflege erfordert, habe ich sehr viel Arbeit vor mir. Mal wird das Wetter schön sein und die Arbeit daher schlammlos, aber manchmal wird es eher nass sein und ich werde mich wieder in ein Nilpferd verwandeln. Wie gut das Ergebnis schmecken wird kann ich Ihnen jetzt leider keinesfalls voraussagen, weil die Qualität des Weins zum guten Teil vom Herbstwetter abhängt. Im Gegensatz zu schnöder Büroarbeit ist das Ganze unglaublich hart und ziemlich unberechenbar.

Wie mein guter Freund, der Rockstar James Maynard Keenan (Sänger von der Heavy Metal Gruppe Tool und von seiner eigenen Band Puscifer) der auch Winzer in Arizona ist (Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards) oft sagt: „Rock Musik ist Chaos. Weinbau ist Chaos. Wenn Du keinen Chaos verträgst lass die Finger von den beiden!“ Aber er ist süchtig nach Winemaking und ich bin es inzwischen auch. Wir Winzer nehmen den Schlamm im Kauf, weil manchmal kommt ein Wein raus der so genial ist, dass fast jeder Trinker so was sagt wie, „Wow! So was habe ich noch nie im Leben geschmeckt!“ Dafür kämpfe ich mich weiter durch den Schlamm.

Oh je! Jetzt fängt es an zu regnen und das Wasser fließt mir den Nacken runter…

Wein Weiblich

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New York Wine Diary: Day 11 – ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA Celebrates It’s First Anniversary

The humble beginnings of ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA in Brooklyn

Exactly one year ago today I began work on my e-book series (for Kindle) ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA. The photo above shows what that looked like. At that point I was de facto homeless both in NYC and Berlin, so this was a bold decision and I had no idea where this serious commitment to gonzo wine journalism in the land of the free would lead me and an unsuspecting world.

Since then I’ve published three volumes: #1, describing my first trip to the US – Baltimore – in September 1985, described as if it happened yesterday; #2, a report of my encounters with Maynard James Keenan – the singer of Puscifer & Tool – and the other pioneer winemakers of Arizona, most notably Kent & Lisa Callaghan and Kelly & Todd Bostock; #3, the story of the new community of young winemakers in the FLX (Finger Lakes, Upstate New York) including Peter Becraft, August Deimel, Julia Hoyle, Nancy Irerlan and Bruce Murray. #4, about the non-Pinot Noir wines of Oregon is a work-in-progress, publication date to be announced.

It all feels good now, although there was some difficult moments along the way. The sexually explicit material in both #1 and #2 was widely criticized and #3 was damned for the lack of sexually explicit material!  Many thanks to everyone who bought and/or read and/or talked bout this radical new form of wine literature. Also a special thank you to Kate Fitzgerald-Groby for allowing me to house, garden and cat sit for her in Brooklyn while I started work on this project. I greatly appreciate all your support. By the way, not only is no end in sight, but I intend to continue working on this series for the rest of my days, so help me God!

The strange looking link below takes you to the ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA page at the Kindle Store. Once again, you don’t need a Kindle to purchase or read, just download the free Kindle app onto your device. The iPhone and iPad both display these texts in a form that makes them easy to read.


Online shopping from a great selection at Kindle Store Store.
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Berlin Wine Diary: Day 17 – Happy Independence Day!

Today is not only the Fourth of July 2016, that is the 240th anniversary of the ratification of the United States Declaration of independence, it is also just two days shy of the 30th anniversary of the completion of my studies (with an MA in cultural history at the Royal College of Art in London), and the moment back in 1986 when I became a full-time independent journalist. That gives me an extra special reason to send my best wishes to you all in the spirit of American Independence that has been such a vital roll model for other independence movements around the world. Open a good bottle or two of wine and enjoy! I will certainly do so and I will share them with friends – and if any of my enemies come around, then they will get a glass too.

There were some moments during those 30 years when things were not going well and I wished that I was the full-time employee of some major media corporation with a regular salary, health and retirement benefits, in short security. But isn’t security always illusory, that is always capable of suddenly and unexpectedly cracking (think 9/11) when it looks most solid. At least I think it helps to try and keep that thought in mind, rather than to lull oneself into a false sense of  comfort and ease.

Although the last year brought a great deal of discomfort and I often felt painfully ill at ease, it was an extremely productive year both in terms of quantity and the quality of writing. Most importantly, I published #1, #2 and #3 in my series of short e-books ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA. They are highly autobiographical stories about different wine locations in America, #1 taking place in Baltimore in 1985 (my first visit to America and the beginning of a love affair with this country), #2 tells the story of the new wine industry of Arizona (and its roots going back to c.1550), and #3 is an in-depth exploration of the new generation of winemakers in the FLX (Finger Lakes of Upstate New York), and as the title declares is also a love story. In fact, it is the first story of a love affair I ever told.

The current three part story I wrote for the Grape Collective website about the rise of the hipster sommeliers lies at the other end of the storytelling scale. These are brief, satirical texts about the youngest active members of  NYWC (New York Wine City). The sheer number of comments to these stories – 665 at the moment of writing – makes it impossible for me to answer them. Grape Collective will certainly invite at least one of the most vocal and articulate of my critics to write an answer to my trilogy, but I feel it is necessary to say a few things here and now. Firstly, I do not consider these stories to be rants as many of my critics have described them, because they are far too analytical for that. They do, however, clearly fall into the category of gonzo journalism. As I pointed out in Part 3, there is nothing original about the material. In fact, there’s nothing original about the style either. I have stolen freely from Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, Roland Barthes and Jonathan Swift, to mention just a few. And yes, I was as little afraid of entertaining my readers as those writers were of entertaining theirs!

Anyone who thinks that I can only write the way I did in the hipster somms series is directed to e-book #3 where the tone, pace and range of the material is very different. To me, one of the most important things about being an independent journalist is the chance to write in many different formats and styles and to learn something from them all. However, to my mind regardless of the style the basis of all serious journalism is the search for the truth, and what makes great journalistic writing possible is the same thing that makes great fiction possible: the determination to write down your own life and the world around you. This is what I have tried to do systematically this last year in my mother tongue, and I will continue to do so with the same fearlessness. That is the essence of independent journalism and I see no reason to change after 30 years, although many people clearly loath the true stories I have written.

The criticism of my work is understandable, and I suggest that I am guilty as charged, although I find the suggestion that my approach is like that of Donald Trump truly breathtaking! I just read something that I think throws some light on my situation. After the Wall Street Crash of 1929 Scott Fitzgerald’s reputation took a mighty plunge, because he was widely associated with the high society who’s greed was seen as being behind the Great Depression. I am nowhere near as successful as Scott Fitzgerald was, and I have not written the Great American Novel as he did (The Great Gatsby). However, I identify with his reply to the accusation that he had chosen the wrong subject for his work. “But, my God, it was my material, it was all I had to work with.” I too have written about what was right in front of my nose since I began immersing myself in NYWC four years ago.

Happy Independence Day!

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Berlin Wine Diary: Day 1 – Why Dan Dunn’s American Wino is a Gross Outrage that You Must Read

Let me be completely frank with you: I don’t like Dan Dunn’s book AMERICAN WINO, in fact I find it extremely frustrating, so frustrating that while I was reading it I said, “what the fuck?” I don’t know how many times and I threw it against the wall a couple of times too. So you’re probably wondering why I’m bothering to review it here, or even why I made the effort to struggle through its 338 confused and confusing pages. Maybe you’re also now wondering if I’m taking a sadistic thrill in craving this new wine book into pieces in the public place that is cyberspace. The truth is the opposite though, for I have forgiven Dan, although his book is a gross outrage. Why did I do that?

The worst thing about Dan’s book is the he keeps on losing it, by which I mean the thread of his story about a coast to coast journey of discovers through the mostly unknown grape growing regions of the United States of Wine, by switching his attention at exactly the wrong moment. In particular, just as you think he’s going to tell you something really interesting about obscure American wines he’s promised to give you an intro to he gets completely distracted by his dead brother, ex-girlfriend or their dead dog! We end up learning more about them and his inability to pick up girls (often much younger than him) than we do about American wine; inexcusable unprofessionalism!

His admission that, “luckily, the one thing that doesn’t scare me is actually being full of shit. I’ve known that I ‘m full of shit for a very long time. It’s pretty much the only thing that I’m comfortable with in life,” is a typical example of his humor, but it doesn’t makes this situation any better. Sure, his frequent attacks on the “snootytorium” that is the wine scene are well deserved, but they are as often off-target and off-subject as they succeed. Much of this crap-shoot is packed into “wine-centric sidebars” that result in those weak moments when I gave into anger and proved to myself that I have more upper body musculature than I admit to.

OK, sometimes – often just when you gave up hope that this wine book would discuss wine in any meaningful way – Dan does tells you something fascinating about little-known and under-appreciated American wines like the Muscadines of Georgia, but there is no consistency to this at all. For example, after he left Sonoma County, California – not exactly the least important winemaking location in the US – I felt I had learned exactly nothing about it, nor had he expressed a serious opinion about it; scandalous incompetence! But I kept reading. I always kept reading AMERICAN WINO even when I was totally infuriated by Dan’s perverse personality and by his inability to tell a coherent story, and even when I was bored by a his compulsive rambling.

Clearly he has the same writer hero as me, Hunter S. Thompson (who I also find infuriating and rambling) and he also writes about some of the same winemakers as I do, such as Maynard James Keenan (yes, the singer of Puscifer and Tool), who makes the Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards wines in Arizona (see my ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA #2: AZ with MJK, available on Kindle). So please dismiss this tirade as jealousy for a colleague who made it into out-dated print when I didn’t.

Why did I forgive Dan then? Not because his book enormously helps me to establish Gonzo wine journalism as category (which it does!), or because it takes a bunch of unfamiliar winemaking locations in America as seriously as I believe they deserve to be (which it does!) but because again and again AMERICAN WINO excited me in ways little other wine storytelling or other storytelling ever does. The book is worth $16.99 (published by Dey St.) just for Dan’s description of seeing rock group U2’s movie Rattle and Hum for the first time!

Be warned, at times this book could make you so frustrated that you will commit violence against it and/or your own person, but you must suffer all that for the outrageously things it will also to do to you, and to get to them you must read it right to the end!

PS Publication of ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA #3 on Kindle about the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York will be May 2nd.

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New York Wine Diary: Day 19 – Become a ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA Author, an Open Call for Submissions!

This is a call for authors to submit manuscripts for potential publication in the ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA e-book (for Kindle) series and is open to all. Please allow me to explain why and how I’m doing this before giving you details of how to actually submit, because you should know what exactly you’re getting into before you jump in the deep end of this Olympic depth diving pool.

When I published my first e-book ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA #1: Point of Entry featuring Very Bad PR (pictured above) on September 29th last year I knew that it was going to be the first in series, but it didn’t occur to me that with it’s appearance sporting brilliant cover art by Angelyn Cabrales I had de facto become a publishing house and was thereby a (albeit very small) competitor for Penguin, Simon & Schuster and all the other well established publishing houses of Planet Wine. Our relationship may be an extreme form of the David & Goliath struggle, but that doesn’t alter the fundamental nature of it. Of course, you could argue that from the beginning this blog has effectively been an online magazine edited and published by me, and the presence of other authors (particularly Frank Ebbinghaus in the German-language department) makes this undeniably true. But, with God knows how many millions of blogs out there in cyberspace it didn’t feel like even when the traffic cranked up to the current level of half a million plus hits per month. Publishing that first e-book was the decisive step, because it is sold by the Kindle Store on Amazon which is hardly a small underground operation. That made me realize I would have to step up and play the role of publisher in an active way, rather than continue to dodge the issue. Should you not yet have read this outrageous tale of my first trip to the US (to Baltimore, to be precise) thirty years ago told as if it all happened yesterday, then this is where to find it:

With the publication of the second “volume” in the series, ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA #2: AZ with MJK: I Could Drink a Case of You (pictured below, also with art work by Angelyn Cabrales) on November 21st things became much more serious for two reasons. The first of these is that this story takes place in the present, in fact, the last events described in the book took place just one hundred hours before it’s publication! Secondly, the central figure of this story set in Arizona is a genuine rock star, Maynard James Keenan the singer of Puscifer and Tool. Tonight is the first night of the 2016 Tool tour (Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, also tomorrow night). This meant that I’m now also in competition with publications like Rolling Stone! I actually offered this story to Rolling Stone, but they weren’t interested. In spite of that they influenced me, because the $4,99 per copy price I set is Rolling Stone’s newsstand price. I have to say that I’m still trying to figure out what being in competition with those guys really means. On the other hand, I immediately realized that one enormous advantage of their lack of interest  in my e-book is that I enjoyed that rare and priceless treasure called COMPLETE ARTISTIC FREEDOM when writing and publishing it. I never forget the first time I heard those words as a teenager – in connection with the movies of Stanley Kubrick, who insisted on those words in every movie contract – they made the hairs on my arms and on the back of my neck stand up. They are still the most erotic words I ever heard and I adopted that freedom and eroticism as my agenda for #2. The PARENTAL ADVISORY Explicit Content sticker is on the cover for a good reason. I can promise you that you will be shocked that a wine book could read like this, because I’m still shocked that it makes great sense to me that a wine book does read like this. As far as I’m concerned it’s the best thing I wrote in a decade. Grab your copy now if you haven’t already done so:

Work on ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA #3 about the FLX (Finger Lakes) of Upstate New York has just begun and publication is due for April 1st (!) this year. Having got this far it suddenly struck me that there’s absolutely no reason why other authors shouldn’t also publish under the banner of ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA. If you have an American wine story that’s as good as my material or better, then you are more than welcome to submit a sample and an outline. HERE IS THE OPEN CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS FOR PUBLICATION IN THIS SERIES:

A sample is a maximum 20,000 characters including empty spaces and an outline explains in a couple of pages what the whole story you wish to publish is. Please include a realistic completion date and indicate (with contact info) who your editor is, alternatively I can edit your work – no editor is not an option and you cannot be the editor! Samples that are too long will be returned unread. Samples without an accompanying outline will be returned unread. Should your story be accepted we will agree a delivery date and you will deliver on time (or agree a delay with me), or the story will not be published. Before publication you must also submit a written statement signed by you to the effect that you possess the copyright of everything you are submitting and agreeing to my terms. Those terms are that your work sells for $4.99 plus tax on Kindle (they will vary the price slightly, but I will enter $4.99 when uploading your book) and that we will divide the 70% of that price which you receive as follows, $1 per copy sold for me the publisher and the rest for you the author. There will be no negotiations about those terms at any point and they hold for the entire lifetime of the e-book, that is as long as copyright still applies to your work. To submit a work first send me a message through the contact function of this blog, then we will establish email contact.

I am full of anticipation for your work! Together we can turn ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA into a serious competitor for the publishers and publications mentioned above

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Berlin Wine Diary: Day 8 – Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards is the Original Rock Star of Wine America

Paul Draper is the original Rock Star of Wine America. Why do I make this unconventional and radical claim? Of course, the term comes from the title of my series of e-books about the underground rock star winemakers of America, and if you go to the Kindle Store you can already find ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA #1: Point of Entry featuring Very Bad PR (describing how I hooked up with America and wine in Baltimore back in 1985) and #2: AZ with MJK – I could Drink a Case of You (describing the wine industry of Arizona and staring Maynard James Keenan). When Paul joined Ridge Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco back in 1969 it was still an underground and an underground producer, although the winery’s roots went back to 1886 (from which year part of the complex of buildings dates). However, even today the lists of California Cult Cabernets that collectors, somms and journalists have in their heads rarely include the Monte Bello Cabernet-based red wine blend that has been Ridge’s top wine since the 1971 vintage. The reason is that the don’t fit the massive, ultra-ripe and often sweetish mold of this category

Ridge still doesn’t fit in, nor does Paul, 79, pictured above at the Weinstein wine bar in Berlin. He isn’t under any illusions about that, nor does it bug him at a ll, rather it is the role that he’s become so accustomed to that he can’t imagine anything else. The flip side of this is the global network of Ridge fans who understand very well how these wines tick and enormously appreciate the undoubting way that Paul and his team (most notably Eric Baugher and John Olney) have stuck with their moderately rich, subtle and elegant style of wine regardless of what the rest of California’s wine industry does, with its tendency to lemming-like behavior every time a new wine fashion becomes visible on the horizon.  Instead, they have refined the style that Paul developed and learned how to dodge the many curveballs that this special climate (Mediterranean type, but with serious fog, and up on top of Monte Bello wind too) throws at them.

Nowhere is that clearer than in the 2011 Monte Bello, by far the best Cabernet-based red I’ve tasted so far from this extremely difficult vintage in California. This was the result of excellent viticulture and choosing exactly the right harvesting date, immediately before the heavy rains that seriously damaged much of the crop in Napa Valley. For anyone skeptical as to whether a CA Cabernet-based blend can match Bordeaux for elegance here is the answer! In a vera different way Ridge’s single vineyard Zinfandel-based red wines from Sonoma County, Geyserville and Lytton Springs, beak another CA wine mold. They always avoiding any trace of the heaviness, portiness and bombastic dimensions that mar many reds from this grape. Instead, they are medium-full bodied wines with generous dry tannins and a wonderful spice character (Geyserville) and herbal freshness (Lytton Springs). The 2012s are wonderful examples of these wines and should age magnificently. If only I still had a few bottles of the great 1991s, the year that I first met Paul!

The starting point for his approach was the decision, “to look backwards to pre-industrial winemaking, rather than look forward to high-tech methods.” This choice was so stark, because the continuity of CA winemaking was broken by Prohibition from 1920 – 1930. Although the CA grape growing industry survived Prohibition fairly intact, and some grape growers made a pile of money by shipping their grapes across the country and selling them with packets of yeast, legal winemaking almost ceased in the state (only wine for Holy Communion was allowed). When the winemaking industry final gained some momentum again in the 1960s most winemakers felt the logical thing to do was science-based futurism. This had very mixed results, and many of the most interesting wines in the state are made by winemakers who chose divergent paths from this dogma. Paul was one of the first of them and to this day is a role model for young CA winemakers who dare to be different. The effects of his influence will surely continue for decades to come, regardless how much longer he remains active himself.

Wein & Glas is the Berlin distributor for Ridge, and Frederick Wildman is the New York distributor. The Ridge wines are distributed globally. For further information consult:


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FLX Wine Diary: Day 5 YES, Maynard James Keenan IS on the Cover of ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA #2 !

There has been some suggestion that the portrait on the cover of my new Kindle e-book ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA #2: AZ with MJK is not of the singer-winemaker Maynard James Keenan (Puscifer & Tool / Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards). The reason that some people have jumped to the conclusion seems to be that in Angelyn Cabrales portrait he is shown smiling. So there seems to be a need to put the record straight. The cover image is based on the above photograph of MJK that I took in The Bunker, aka Caduceus Cellars in Jerome, Arizona on November 15th, 2014, and as you can see from it he does smile just like everybody else! To learn more about the man, his wines and the Arizona wine industry that he is a vital part of click on the following link:

This also seems like an opportune moment to explain that the portrait on the book’s cover is a work of embroidery, a stitched drawing and collage of fabrics. Angelyn Cabrales developed this technique and circular format herself although she is still a student at The College of New Jersey. The design of the book’s cover is also her work, although it is modeled on the cover that Alexandra Weiss of Bad Dürkheim in Germany did for #1 in this series of outrageous tales about America, wine and I. Research for #3 about the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York continues this very day!

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