July 18, 2006

Reading about wine

Actually, reading about Oregon wine, mostly.

Have you seen the new Oregon Wine Press? This sleepy little monthly recently changed hands and the quality of writing and content is soaring. There’s even good copyediting now. Now the features are more interesting, the news is newsier, and I actually find myself interested in what the next issue will bring.

Then there’s Wine Press Northwest, which may just annoy me for its emphasis on Washington wines under the banner of the the broader northwest. It’s forgivable, the publication is based in Kennewick, WA. Hey, I’m in Oregon and equally biased toward our wines. But the WPN columnists for the most part leave me unsatisfied, and the wine reccomendations seem like wasted opportunities. Do we need write ups on wine from Domaine Ste. Michelle and Willamette Valley Vineyards? Is the readership that unadventurous? At least the latest issue bucks the trend with a pretty good cover story on new Oregon AVAs.

I liked a new publication, Imbibe. It’s from Portland but does a surprisingly good job at disguising that fact. Lots of ads from across the country with features that don’t focus on the local scene too much. This magazine is about all beverages, and the premiere issue does a good job with features on Mezcal, “third wave” coffee, and, unfortunately, a mixologist. What a terrible word, and no magazine can be perfect.

Wine-wise, there’s a terrific feature on organic grape growing featuring Brick House and Evesham Wood from the northern Willamette Valley. The wine recommendations even include a Savennieres from French biodynamic guru Nicholas Joly. Talk about challenging your readership. Good stuff here, fresh without being over the top “cool.” As in, not cool. Remember Wine X? Is that even still around?

Finally, a sad note to pass on. Wine industry publications like Wines and Vines still suck. Good lord. If a space alien got ahold of the July issue, it would think wine on earth was nothing more than a vehicle to flavor with oak chips, oak stave inserts for wine tanks, oak dust, oak essence, even some screw threaded oak plugs that offer maximum flavoring in a tidy, small package. Ok, the issue theme is Oak Alternatives, so at least they’re comprehensive. But how depressing.

And yet there’s a bright spot. On nearly the last page, there’s an opinion piece from...surprise, surprise...Alice Feiring. Talk about the last person I expected to see in this issue. Alice is a terrific wine writer who has one of the better blogs. If only I could steal the whole package – her design, her writing, even her curly red hair. And here she is writing about whether or not biodynamism is just a marketing ploy in America, a way for some capitalists to charge more money for no good reason. Like with the commercialization of “organic” labelled food. Nice piece, Alice. Refreshingly unflavored with oak.

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