ALL-IN ON BOOK REVIEWS: Do you have a (non-fictional or fictional) book related to wine, spirits, or beer that you'd like reviewed? Contact me!

Friday, December 15, 2023

Book Review: "Ancient Wine: the Search for the Origins of Viniculture" by Patrick E. McGovern

"Ancient Wine: the Search for the Origins of Viticulture" by Patrick C. McGovern

I hope you like pottery! Like, really really like pottery! A lot! Because that's what Ancient Wine by Patrick E. McGovern is pretty much all about. This is because when you go back thousands and thousands of years, before writing, all we can hope to know about ancient wine is through the pottery that survived and the residue that remains within.

Patrick E. McGovern is the scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. According to this book, he and his laboratory have made some pretty incredible discoveries on the ancient history of wine, including the discovery that wine has been around for thousands of years before we thought.

Ancient Wine doesn't read like a story about wine, starting from the beginning and moving forward. Ancient Wine reads like the story of McGovern's career, going in the order of as things were revealed to him through his work. Although McGovern TRIES to keep it by place and time, it very much does bounce around all over the place a lot, so going into this it helps to know your ancient Mediterranean and Mesopotamian civilizations and their timelines.

Not only does Ancient Wine go into the history of wine (and beer, as well) in ancient times, but also the science behind the knowledge and technology that we use today to find what kind of beverage was in that pottery and how we know how old it is. Very, very cool book that will teach you a lot of very, very cool things you didn't know you wanted know.

(Originally published in 2003, this reprint from 2019 includes an Afterword by the author to catch you up on all of the updates in what we have learned and what is new in archaeological technology since the original printing.)

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Lifted Supreme Citrus and Dark

I was lucky enough to try this stuff before purchase and liked it enough to go online and buy full bottles. Lifted Supreme is basically a non-alcoholic "spirit" with THC, and is more like a liqueur than anything. The Citrus tastes just like Mountain Dew (yummy!) and the Dark has brown spice flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg. You can make cocktails with these or just shoot it! For what I want to get out of this kind of thing, a 1.5 ounce shot is good enough, and two shots is too much. I'm new to the whole "weed is legal" thing, so I'm not really sure what else you really want to know about it other than it's up to 42.5 mg of THC in each bottle.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Book Review: "Alcohol: The World's Favorite Drug" by Griffith Edwards (2000)

"Alcohol: The World's Favorite Drug" by Griffith Edwards

 "Alcohol: The World's Favorite Drug" was published in 2000, one year before I was legal to drink. I heard about it in the past month when it was mentioned in the book "Drunk" (read my review of that book here), and I was able to purchase a used copy online that once called Richards Library in Newport, New Hampshire, home.

The author of Alcohol is Griffith Edwards; an MD whose work is on the study of addiction to alcohol and other drugs, and you can definitely tell. The book is kind of misleading in title, as it focuses on alcohol dependency most of the time. And it does so very effectively, especially when it talks about alcohol dependency from the viewpoint of the dependent; how they think about it and the excuses they tell themselves.

It is not misleading in saying that it's "a look at fact and falsehoods, and how to tell the difference." There are many things that we all think we know about the history of alcohol that simply aren't true, but we've been conditioned into believing them by rhetoric from the anti-alcohol and pro-alcohol movements and industries.
"Alcohol is a fact around which are created myths, and those myths themselves then become powerful facts."
With the 90th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition upon us, let's use that as an example. The Gin Craze in eighteenth century England was really really bad, but nothing has touched alcohol abuse as much as America in the 1830's. This is when the US was at 18 liters per capita in consumption, whiskey was cheaper than tea and coffee, and there certainly was fair enough grounds for a temperance movement to grow. At first this movement was just against distilled spirits, but the conditions in the 1830's lead it to be against any alcohol at all, such as beer and wine

Fast forward 90 years, with many events and individual state prohibitions in between, what was a valid movement against a very real problem had become the myth that all alcohol consumption is evil and the cause of all of mankind's woes, which is simply not true but many still believe. This all lead to the US national Prohibition. Over the next decade and beyond, the anti-Prohibitionists blamed speakeasies and organized crime and bootlegging on Prohibition, and even though those existed long before Prohibition, this is rhetoric we still believe. Fascinatingly, calling alcoholism a disease started in the 1800's but faded in the early 1900's... but then it was revived by the anti-Prohibitionists to say "hey, it's not the alcohol that's the problem, it's YOU!"
"With intoxication, there is the supposed removal of decent civilizing restraint when those centres (autonomic nervous system) are anaesthetized by alcohol and the more primitive parts of the brain are allowed to take over control of the behavior. Often there seems to be more of a metaphor than of brain science in this kind of theory."
So yes, the book explains how facts turn into myth and then myth into facts as we know them, and it does it very well with each topic it touches.

Alcohol is basically a book about "to-drink-or-not-to-drink", a history of alcohol dependency and abuse, and then even recovery. So while it claims to be neither for or against the consumption of alcohol, and it proves that many times by staying with facts and keeping opinions in the grey area, the outcome of everything that it discusses weighs heavily on the downside of drinking over the upside. Honestly, that's where that facts go in science and history. (Drunk goes into how important drinking is to our social needs as humans, but still comes to the same conclusion in physical health costs.)

Thus, it is a very powerful book for those who need to quit, want to quit, struggling to be sober, or successful in sobriety.
It can be anyone. "... proneness to develop alcohol dependence does not have any single master explanation to cover every individual. It is not a matter of some people being doomed to alcohol dependence by their genes while the rest of us drink with impunity. And for any one individual no simple causal explanation is likely to suffice."

Monday, November 20, 2023

Silver Oak wine dinner at The Port in Harwich, Cape Cod - October 5th, 2023

On the fifth of October this year I attended a wine dinner with Silver Oak's Matt Katz. Luke's of Cape Cod (of which I am the marketer) helped put it on at The Port Restaurant + Bar in Harwich, MA. It was a whole lot of fun! And the wines, food, and the pairings of the two were incredible. Pics or it didn't happen!

Scallop Risotto with Twomey Sauvignon Blanc
First Course: Scallop Risotto
Sea scallops, smoked bacon and corn risotto with fresh thyme and scallions

Coccoli Fritti with Twomey Pinot Noir
Second Course: Coccoli Fritti
Prosciutto, fried dough, ricotta cheese with olive oil

Beef Ravioli with Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Third Course: Beef Ravioli
in al a vodka sauce

Beef tenderloin with Timeless by Silver Oak
Fourth Course: Beef Tenderloin
Seared roasted beef tenderloin served with a rich wine sauce

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Horizon Beverage tasting in Boston - October 3rd, 2023

Photos from the Horizon Beverage tasting in Boston on October 3, 2023.
Mount Veeder Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Shrader RBS To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
Mount Veeder Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon,
Shrader RBS To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

La Nerth Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2019, Norton Privada 2016, Purple Angel 2020, Croft Vintage Porto 2016
La Nerth Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2019, Norton Privada 2016,
Purple Angel 2020, Croft Vintage Porto 2016

Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2020, Marques de Casa Concha Heritage 2020, The Butler 2020
Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2020, Marques de Casa Concha Heritage 2020,
The Butler 2020

Achaval Ferrer Altamira 2019, Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2020, Achaval Ferrer Quimersa 2019, Hacienda de Arinzano
Achaval Ferrer Altamira 2019, Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2020,
Achaval Ferrer Quimersa 2019, Hacienda de Arinzano

Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria
Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria

The Vineyard House Block 5 Cabernet Franc 2018, Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, Kinsella Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
The Vineyard House Block 5 Cabernet Franc 2018,
Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, Kinsella Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Palladino Ornato Borolo 2018, SCEG Aglianico del Vulture 2019, Fattoria Rodano Chianti Classico 2019
Palladino Ornato Borolo 2018, SCEG Aglianico del Vulture 2019,
Fattoria Rodano Chianti Classico 2019

Herman J. Wiemer Gewurztraminer 2020, Herman J. Wiemer Dry Riesling 2021, Herman J. Wiemer Semi-Dry Riesling 2021,Herman J. Wiemer Field White Table Wine, Fallegro Gianni Gagliardo
Herman J. Wiemer Gewurztraminer 2020, Herman J. Wiemer Dry Riesling 2021,
Herman J. Wiemer Semi-Dry Riesling 2021,
Herman J. Wiemer Field White Table Wine, Fallegro Gianni Gagliardo

Merriam Vineyards Late Harvest Red Wine (Cabernet Franc) 2017
Merriam Vineyards Late Harvest Red Wine (Cabernet Franc) 2017

Champagne Autréau Rosé Brut, Domain Langoux Pouilly Fume 2022, Chateau Des Tours Brouilly
Champagne Autréau Rosé Brut, Domain Langoux Pouilly Fume 2022,
Chateau Des Tours Brouilly

Mexican Wine: Casa Magoni Origen 43 2020, Laberinto Vino Tinto Blend, El Bajio Marselan Red Wine, Tré Sangiovese
Mexican Wine: Casa Magoni Origen 43 2020, Laberinto Vino Tinto Blend,
El Bajio Marselan Red Wine, Tré Sangiovese

Mexican Wine: Parvada Tinto 2020, Bruma Ocho Reserva Mezcla 2020
Mexican Wine: Parvada Tinto 2020, Bruma Ocho Reserva Mezcla 2020

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Book Review: "All Our Broken Idols" by Paul Cooper

"All Our Broken Idols" by Paul Cooper

This book has nothing to do with wine (I believe alcohol is only mentioned maybe twice), but it was so good that I just had to share. As a huge fan of history, I was listening to the Fall of Civilizations Podcast's episode about Assyria when at the end the host, Paul Cooper, mentioned he wrote a novel that takes place during the reign of Ashurbanipal. So of course, I had to get it.

All Our Broken Idols actually takes place in the same place but in two different times. Yes, one story takes place in ancient Ninevah in the 640's BCE, but the other takes place in modern Mosul in 2014 CE.

In the ancient story, Aurya is the main character. She's a teenager living in an Assyrian village. It appears to me that her older brother has some form of autism; he literally remembers everything, every little detail about every moment, goes into sensory overload quite often, and is a gifted artist. When their father suddenly dies (I won't tell you how) just before he was to sell a huge rock to King Ashurbanipal, they travel with the King and his men to the city of Ninevah to start anew.

In the modern day story, Katya is the main character. She's a 26 year old archeobiologist, meaning she's an archeologist who specializes in plants (very important in archeology). Her father was from Iraq and moved to England where he met her mother. But he was a reporter and about 10 years earlier he went back to Iraq to report on the conflicts there, and he never came back. Rather than going to Greece for a site to work at, she chose the ruins of Ninevah to search for her roots and possibly her father. And if you were paying attention to world events back then, you know what happened to Mosul back in 2014.

The writing and storytelling is wonderful, and the two stories intertwine beautifully, culminating together perfectly. I ripped through this book so quick it's not even funny because I couldn't put it down. Highly HIGHLY recommended.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Book Review: Wine Economics by Stefano Castriota

I was sent this book to review in December of 2020, just after one very difficult event in my life and just before another. Needless to say, I never got around to reading it until now.

Wine Economics was originally written in Italian, and later translated into English by and for the use of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in 2020, with the addition of bringing the United States' Prohibition into discussion. I'm not sure when the original Italian version was printed, but none of the studies referenced or data given in the book took place after 2016. Being almost 4 years old (or older) there are just a few things that are probably a little out of date now but no big deal as they're still relevant. There is one that will give you a chuckle, though: When it states that there couldn't be a new adult beverage genre that could hurt sales of all other existing adult beverages, it clearly didn't see the canned cocktail craze coming.

Wine Economics covers EVERYTHING in, well, wine economics. From the vineyard, to the winery, to the consumer. It includes important things that need to be understood in the wine world, such as why prices will keep going up as the temperature does from climate change, the profound universal impact of cooperatives in every industry, how rapid increasing of appellations could cause consumer confusion, and even the benefits of local vineyards for people who do not drink.

It is very much a university textbook, so be prepared for reference names and years very, very often. Certain parts of the book were hard for me to get through, with my ADHD, because of this distraction occurring so often. Also, there are a lot of graphs and none of them made a lick of sense to me. Numbers and graphs are not the kind of smart I am.
"For every company that records very heavy losses, there is another that makes huge profits."
What is completely fascinating about this book is that it breaks down things in way that other wine books do not. When it talks about New World vs Old World, it just doesn't talk about style or laws. It breaks down, at length, the differences of production, distribution, company structure, marketing, and consumption, as well.

Because this is Wine Economics book, it isn't trying get you to have an opinion on something or make you believe in one side of something. It's simply stating facts, and it points out a lot of conflicting studies when it needs to be said there is a real reason for not having full evidence of something. Studies are so inconsistent on whether or not heavy investments in quality lead to actual higher profits, that it might not. There is less money invested in making an ocean of swill, and its sold for less, but it sells more. Apparently the only investments consistent for higher profit is aging, advertising, and promotion.

Also, take alcohol abuse, for example. There is no evidence that alcohol abuse is more prevalent with the poor and/or unemployed than the rich and/or employed because studies are always so different. It could be that the rich and/or employed have the means and tools to hide alcohol abuse better. But it also nails down consistent studies that leave no doubt of their accuracy, such as alcohol abuse is much higher in newly legal consumers and the elderly than those aged between.

This book is not for everybody. As I said, it is very much a university textbook with a lot of information and ZERO personality in its narration. But boy, did I learn a lot about things that I didn't even know that I wanted to know with all that information. The amount of research on statistics and studies done to make this book is staggering.
"Building a reputation requires significant short-term investments to obtain long-term returns."
Here's a list of things included in Wine Economics that I thought were worth mentioning:

Chapters 1-2: Costliness of consumption trends to wineries, concentration of varieties due to globalization, wine publicity's focus on higher quality win instead of the more produced and consumed jug and bulk wine, why wine prices will increase as the temperature does with climate change, grape growing contracts with wineries, how prices are established

Chapters 3-4: Porter's five forces of the wine sector (threat of new entrants, bargaining power of buyers, bargaining power of suppliers, threat of substitute products or services, rivalry among existing competitors), the structure of different forms of wine companies and their motivations, the profound universal impact of cooperatives in every industry (and how their existence has been ignored in education since McCarthyism), the innovation boost of industrial clusters

Chapters 5-6: big statistical study break-downs on if investments in wine collecting are are actually worth it, wine auctions, winery stocks, risk insurance for damage and currency, investment theory (there is all sorts of calculus-like formulas here and I have no idea what the heck is going on), collective and individual brand reputation, institutional reputation with explanation of European classification systems, problems with Italy's system, rapid increasing of appellations creating consumer confusion, studies on social capital of communities

Chapters 7-8: externality consequences and solutions for wine producers and consumers, the benefits of vineyards for those who do no drink wine, benefits of moderate consumptions (such as reduction of risk of cardiovascular disease), damage from abuse (physical and mental health, work, suicide, accidents, violence, cost in society), combating and preventing abuse, services like Uber may have increased alcohol abuse and bar employment, taxation of alcohol, USA's three-tiered system, the unlikely team-work of alcohol distributors and anti-alcohol movements (joining together to fight free distribution)

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Book Review: "Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization" by Edward Slingerland

Just by going back into the articles on this blog, it should be no secret to you that I'm a huge science and history geek. But I'm especially geeky about evolution and the cosmos. I've delved into so much Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and Richard Dawkins that it's ridiculous. Clearly, I'm also a wine geek, so when you combine those things together I'M IN!!!

I saw Drunk while browsing Barnes & Noble one day, trying not to lose my six year old and making sure the books my thirteen year old wanted were appropriate. I was like "Cool! A history of our drunk asses! SOLD!" but it was not like what I was expecting. Rather than accounts throughout history on our said drunken asses, this book asks the question:

How has evolution not eliminated our enjoyment of getting drunk? It's clearly harmful to your organs, leaves you with awful hangovers, and is a very common cause of death around the world, so you'd think those who refrained from booze for whatever reason would produce more offspring, and through evolution we'd have some reaction that would stop us from consuming ethanol. 

But this book goes through it all from the very beginning, and it goes deep into who we truly are as a species. How our primate lineage and instincts mixed with our worker-ant mentality and societies butt heads within our heads often, and because of this we need to shut down our prefrontal cortex to open up our creativity and inspirations.

Drinking and dancing together at the ancient ceremony or local pub builds trust and creates friendships. This has made the act of community drinking an important part of the human experience, and lead to the great ideas and progress we have made throughout history.

But the book also goes into a relatively new threat: the rise of ABV in wine (from 5% average to 12% average) and beer (we're seeing it get even bigger now with craft beer), the creation of distilled spirits (allowing you to get sloshed very quickly), and the ability to completely isolate ones self (drinking alone). Is this why evolution hasn't done anything about alcoholism yet? Is this drastic change to the alcohol we consume, the advancement of our technology, and social changes too new? And if we keep going in the direction we are, will evolution react?

At one point he wonders if there should be a different legal age for buying and consuming distilled spirits than wine and beer, and to me that completely makes sense. An earlier age for the lower ABV products of beer and wine would create a greater appreciation and respect for drinking, and there would be less abuse when the brain is developed enough for distilled spirits. For defending this, he uses the drinking cultures of southern Europe vs northern Europe.

Slingerland sticks up for the community pub and believes it's worth a hit to the liver to enjoy yourself, because if you can't enjoy yourself and your friends and be merry, then what do you have? But he takes a step back... well, many steps back and then moves closer and closer to a step back, to really analyze what's going on with us and our love of intoxication. He sees it through the eyes of both Spock and Kirk, and he's great at it.

I recommend this book to all the science, history, and wine geeks out there. It will reel you in and not let go until you're done.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Book Review: "Fermentation as Metaphor" by Sandor Ellix Katz

Fermentation as Metaphor by Sandor Ellix Katz
"Just as people can project irrational fear of bacteria upon fermentation, people can project any number of irrational fears of contamination by the other upon the race/nation/culture."
Sandor Ellix Katz is obsessed with fermentation. He experiments with it, he writes about it, he takes pictures of it, he teaches about it. In his book "Fermentation as Metaphor" he not only goes into some of the science of fermentation, but sees the act of fermentation in human society and culture.

As he states, and I'm paraphrasing, things don't change effectively by fire. That burns everything down. It takes a slow fermentation, a "bubbling up", to make cultural changes and form social behavior. Actual fermentation breaks down nutrients into more accessible forms. Metaphorical fermentation breaks down the old and creates the new. He connects this to politics, religious beliefs, general ideas, racism, climate change, overuse of sterilization in everyday life, and even the differing ideas of purity. And it's all done in an intricate, detailed way that keeps you reading and doesn't lose you at any point.

This isn't a woo-woo magic/spiritual book, it's based on science, but this might sound just like that to some: One part of this book that I really connected to was the idea of emotional composting. Where you can turn your negative emotions into creating positive ones. Rather than suppressing these terrible things, you embrace and accept them, you cry about them and let them out, and then you use them as motivation to turn it all around. That's what I did to get through something that hit me pretty hard a few years ago, and left me with some pretty effective trauma. I was able to ferment all of that into improving and getting away from it. I now have a term to use for how I got through it all.

With 50 beautiful photographs of fermentation taken using microscopes, this is a beautiful book in both its visuals and its words. It's 108 short pages (many of them photography) and you can finish it easily in one sitting. I highly recommend that you do so.
"Fermentation is a force that cannot be controlled, and the changes it renders are not always desirable."

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Art of Earth Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay

This isn't my first run-in with Art of the Earth by Mack & Schühle. I reviewed their Montepulciano d'Abruzzo while I was cooking up some burgers and they paired deliciously. These wines here, however, are from Mendoza, Argentina. Like the Montepulciano, they are 100% organic. I'm sure you've guessed that's kind of the point of the brand. 

The Chardonnay is 100% unoaked and it's basically a refreshing and citrusy white wine. It could have spent more time aging with the lees to bring out more tropical fruit and Chardonnay character, but honestly I really didn't care. I'm kind of over that analytical stuff when it comes to my own pleasure, and I liked it for what it is. For a $12 unoaked Chard, it gets the job done.

The Cabernet Sauvignon is also unoaked and it's totally solid. This is straight up what you should demand to expect in a Cab at that price range instead of what we're now given. It's got good quality, good structure, current and cherries, and a nice addition of savoriness.

It just looks like these guys are bringing you $12 wines (the hot spot for the average US wine consumer) with some good stuff for the price, while bringing 100% organic in as a bonus. It hits just right: just what you want, right where you want it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Fly Wines: Welcome to the Vine High Club

Wine clubs can be a whole lot of fun, and I just got this box by Fly Wines, whose goal is to share independent wineries from around the world with its customers. I have two daughters so you're damn right I'm gonna mention this is a woman owned business, aaaaand a black woman owned business. That is friggin' awesome.

So Fly Wines just launched recently and their first offering is four wines (in 187ml bottles) by Fortino Winery out of Santa Clara, California. Which was a good decision because the wines are very nice, and I always love seeing something different that doesn't get into the market of my area often like a Sangiovese from California.

But just by everything that I see, Fly Wines has their stuff together. They have an excellent presentation, with obvious care into their image, and they ESPECIALLY have beautiful and protective packaging. I've seen wine clubs that showed up with awful presentation and packaging, but Fly Wines is top notch in this area. The best I've personally seen yet of its kind.

Getting a delivery from this wine club would be a pleasure. I'm gonna give it a big thumbs up!

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Glasvin Natural Stemware "The Universal" Wine Glass

I got these new wine glasses by Glasvin! It's their "The Universal" model, meant to be flexible with all of your wine consumption needs, and I just think they're awesome. Razor thin, perfect tulip shape for wine versatility, and NO BULB on the lip! They're also tall and elegant, without being too tall and elegant. Just perfect, and they're going to now be the stemware that I reach for first.

It comes in a box with protection for shipment, and a guide to using other stemware shapes for specific wines and adult beverages. I highly recommend these glasses, and you can get them right on Glasvin's website:

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Yikes, man! I thought I posted this over a year ago but I never hit the schedule or publish button! Now I'm just embarrassed because the stuff for the photoshoot are super cool.

You see that Solostove with Wairau River etched on the side? That thing is amazing! It even comes with a holder for the top to place a pot or pan on it so you can cook with it. Really friggin' cool. And that knife and board is part of the Primus cutting set, for preparing food for outdoors. I've used that thing many times in the past year, and I keep it with all my "just incase, cuz you never know" stuff in my car. Love it!

That 2021 Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc was so good too. Crisp and refreshing, while clearly still a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but not feeling like you're being punched in the teeth. Oh yes, the expressive grapefruit is still there and it's still intense, but... okay, let's be honest... I'm kinda done with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. They can be just toooooo muuuuuch now. Just overboard with the grapefruit and tartness! This guy right here is expressive and varietally correct for New Zealand, but it didn't make me twinge once and I enjoyed drinking it! Grapefruit, peach, lime, and a little dash of herbalness. A delicious porch pounder for the summer!

Monday, July 10, 2023

The GrapeBunch presented by Luke's of Cape Cod

Where have I been? Well, first of all, real life hit pretty hard in early 2021 and I had to put things on a pretty extended hold. I'm looking to pick things up a liiiiittle bit with book reviews and such, but as it stands right now there are no plans on bringing the blog back to the constant content producer that it once was.

That doesn't mean that you can't see my stuff on a weekly basis, though! When I returned to Luke's of Cape Cod in 2020, I became the marketer, utilizing my experience with blogging and social media. For three years now I've been running The GrapeBunch; a weekly wine email.

Sure, it's made for the customers of Luke's of Cape Cod, but much of the information is universal. There's a winery feature every month, a monthly themed "in-home tasting package" where I choose six wines based on a theme for you to hold your own wine tastings, AND there's also a monthly article where I geek out about the history of a certain varietal or wine region (just like I used to do here, but without the bad language).

Subscribe to GrapeBunch

Take a look at all these articles and features from May 2020 to June 2023! (listed newest to oldest)
Regions and Varietals
● Puglia
● Merlot
● Paso Robles
● Loire Valley
● Cabernet Sauvignon
● Verdejo
● Moscato Bianco
● Chianti Classico
● Petite Sirah
● Oregon
● South Africa
● Malbec
● Sauvignon Blanc
● Washington State
● Montepulciano
● Tempranillo
● Bordeaux
● Cava
● Pinot Noir
● Zinfandel
● Trentino-Alto Adige
● Albariño
● Gewürztraminer
● Grenache / Garnacha
● Syrah / Shiraz
● Douro River
● Port Dessert Wine
● Nero d'Avola
● Côtes du Rhône
● Cinsault
● Champagne
● Grüner Veltliner
● Pinot Blanc
Winery Features
● Benzinger
● Duckhorn
● J. Lohr
● DAOU Vineyards
● Wente Vineyards
● Banfi
● Chateau Buena Vista
● FitVine Wines
● Treasury Luxury
● Bread & Butter
● le Fat Bastard
● Cline Family Cellars
● The Beachhouse
● Trapiche
● 14 Hands Winery
● DeLoach Vineyards
● Chateau Ste. Michelle
● Truro Vineyards
● 90+ Cellars
● Foley Family
● Joel Gott
● Noble Vines
● Knotty Vines
● Mondavi Private Selection
● Bodegas Callia
● Layer Cake
● Dreaming Tree
● Hess Select
● Leese-Fitch Wines
● Copper Cane
● Bogle Winery
Wine Articles
● Cooking with Wine - keeping it simple and inexpensive
● How Rosé exploded!
● Canned Wine
● Analyzing Wine
● How to make Spanish Sangria 

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Book Review: Eastern Promise by Peter Stafford-Bow

"I was tempted to suggest that anyone who reduced a living wine - its relationship with its terroir, the stage of its development in its decades-long life, the conditions prevailing at the moment of consumption, not to mention the company in which it was consumed - to a single numerical score, was a tedious, innumerate fool."
Eastern Promise is the fourth book in the Felix Hart series by Peter Stafford-Bow, and let me start off by saying that I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of these books. Corkscrew started things off back in 2017, recording Felix's rise into the wine trade, becoming a Minstrel of Wine, and going on a series of ridiculously hilarious adventures. Brut Force expands on his Minstrel duties while continuing to have Felix running around to save his own life. Firing Blancs was the first to be based on one location; South Africa. While the first two books were fun, hilarious, and definitely must-reads, Firing Blancs is where you could see Peter really coming into his own as story teller.

In the fourth installment, Eastern Promise, Peter continues that trend. Not only is this just a well-written story, it is definitely the wittiest of all four of the books and is very hard to put down. I finished it in just a few nights, staying up much later than I probably should have, and I cannot tell you how many times I literally laughed out loud. The character of Felix Hart is a treasure, and the world that Peter has build around him is quite brilliant.

You'll never think of elephant seals the same again. Trust me.

So what has Felix gotten himself into this time? Well, of course Sandra from Paris-Blois has coaxed him into doing something he doesn't want to do. This time it's for 1 million US dollars to raid a counterfeit wine scheme in Hong Kong! Although the year is not given, it appears that this all occurs during the later stages of the COVID lockdown, as many travel bans and safety measures (such as masks) have been pulled except for in Asia, where these things are as strict as ever.

As straight-forward as steal-a-fake-bottle-and-run sounds, things aren't really as they seem. And it's made even more difficult when the new idiot CEO of Gatesave fires Felix from his wine buyer job, and he becomes the bathroom accessories buyer instead! However, it turns out that this big screw up becomes a savior move for Felix. And it's a good thing that Felix was enlisted for this mission, because it's going to take a shifty thinker and a lot of screwing up to bring down these bad guys!

This is such a great book, and I highly recommend that every wine lover with a sense of humor reads the whole series. You will not be disappointed.

Oh, one last thing... In my Firing Blancs review I mentioned that Peter is really good at writing American tourists. Well, in this book he proves he's really good at writing modern business jargon. Those CEO and consultant meetings were tooooorttttttuuuuuure.
"On Sunday, if things didn't quite go to plan, my bloated corpse would be fished from a paddy field irrigation ditch somewhere up the Pearl River Delta, and by Monday, all going well, I'd be back in Britain, awaiting my own postmortem. Assuming, that is, there was enough of my cadaver left to examine once the flesh-eating wildlife of Guangdong had finished with it."

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