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Oct 17, 2017

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Regrets… A Few
by S. Duda
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 6.2

Regrets... A few

Editor: It’s our 9th Anniversary and I’d like you to take a look back. A highlight thing, you know...relive where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.
Me: But... I...
Editor: Don’t worry ‘bout it. It’ll be fun. And if you’ve got some space left, maybe make a few predictions for the future.
Me: But... I...
Editor: Oh, and I need it yesterday.

Why lie? Fact is, there’ve been precious few highlights in this column. Progress? No. We stumble and if the direction happens to be forward, well that’s just swell. Mostly, we just drink a lot of booze, crank the stereo and hope no one calls 911. So rather than pat-pat-patting my own back, I’d rather be honest and offer up a humble list of regrets, screw-ups and general incompetencies with the promise that I’ll try to do better next time.

I regret flogging the following words as if I were some addlebrained hack wine writer: unctuous, compelling, exuberant, luscious, complex, supple...

I regret thinking that advice to spit wine at tastings was stupid. Failure to heed this advice led to a number of embarrassing snafus, embarrassments and fuck-ups. To wit:

I regret calling Robert Parker “fatso” during a tasting in 2001. I was inebriated.

Similarly, I regret planting a wet, sloppy kiss directly on the lips of beer/scotch critic Michael Jackson in 2002. Again, I blame the devil’s firewater for my lack of discretion.

I regret not buying those 200 acres in Walla Walla when I had the chance 10 years ago. Unfortunately, I was broke.

I regret nominating Rainier Beer as “Best Beer of 2004.” Regardless of my usual sterling recommendations, many readers did not “get” or “appreciate” the “selection.”

I regret recommending Mary Lou Lord’s album, Got No Shadow, in Wine X Volume 2.4. Looking back, I find it difficult to recall exactly what my attraction was to this disc. Sorry about that. In my defense, I will humbly note that my other selections that month (Derailers, Reverb Deluxe; Elliott Smith, Either/Or) remain beyond reproach.

Mouthwatering, mouthfeel, mouth-filling, a mouthful, happy-mouth, mouth-friendly, mouth-punch, “there’s a party in my mouth,” etc.

I regret hyping the hell out of Yellow Tail shiraz when it made its debut in this country a number of years ago. Not that Yellow Tail shiraz is a horrible wine - not at all. However, I’ve seen it lately at my local 7-11 and must admit that makes me feel like a yutz.

Even though I had nothing to do with it, I regret that that dude from Ally McBeal was ever on our cover. Dr. Ruth? On the cover? Same deal.

I regret penning the following line in regard to a scotch whisky named Loch Dhu: “There are...fistful of cinnamon and clove and a good dollop of honey, not to mention that gritty, dirt-floor heft a good scotch wears like a hockey jersey.” That one still makes me a bit queasy.

I regret recommending Sokol Blosser Evolution at least twice. It’s a good white, but it ain’t all that...

Plump, phat, fleshy, corpulent, porcine, full-bodied, burly, husky...

I regret hyping the living hell out of Prosecco and Moscato D’Asti if said hyping has had anything at all to do with the price jacking up in the last few years.

Tori Amos? Not me! Not my fault!

I regret neglecting the entire continent of Europe these past nine years. Sorry!

Similarly, I regret devoting a large portion of my column to writing about French wines in the “Best of 1998” issue. Any careful reader with even an inkling of knowledge about French plonk would have been able to discern within a mere handful of ill-constructed sentences and bad puns that I clearly didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. Sorry.

I regret not punching every one of the 147,987 people who has ever told me they like “a dry red.”

I offer apologies to all who have purchased a free-jazz album on my recommendation. No, they’re not really hurting those saxophones. That’s “art.”

I regret a 2002 pun constructed out of a bottle of 1995 Chateau LaGrange Clinet and a ZZ Top album.

Vivacious, supple, rapturous, profound, lithe, alluring, enchanting, scrumptious, yummy, delightful.

I regret failing to buy every bottle from K Vineyards I’ve ever stumbled across. Similarly, I regret spilling the beans about K in this here wine mag.

I regret penning the phrase “bubble structure” in regard to a bottle of Pacific Echo NV Brut sparkling wine.

I regret not living in New Zealand.

I regret the line “my taste buds became erect” and henceforth will deny it ever came from my laptop.

I regret recommending a bottle of 1998 Pouilly Fume En Chailloux by exclaiming, “It’s like sucking on a rock...but a rock with a nice mouthfeel and a hint of vanilla.”

I regret recommending Sonic Youth’s “Goodbye 20th Century.” It’s utterly pretentious and often unlistenable.

Refined, austere, delicate, subtle, enigmatic...

I regret the phrase “nectar factor” in the description of dessert wine, which appeared sometime in 1993.

Why did I ever let my subscription to the Ridge ATP program lapse? Oh a “wine critic” I was supposed to have my mailbox filled by wineries eager for me to spill ink on the lovely vino. Big mistake there...

Starting now - Right Now! - this column vows to do things right. No more goofing off. No more dumb recommendations. No more bad, only good. Promise.

Here’s the good:

Smog, A River Ain’t Too Much to Love (Drag City)

Smog’s main man, Bill Callahan, has carved out a long career writing songs of smart, low-fi folk both touched and frustrated by genius. Sometimes Smog can be blindingly, flat-out great, but they can also be stubbornly obtuse. On A River Ain’t Too Much to Love, Callahan has finally produced the coherent masterpiece at which he’s always hinted. Bare-boned, straightforward and achingly gorgeous, this is Smog stripped down to its bare essentials - strummed guitar, skittering drums (provided by Dirty Three’s amazing Jim White) and bass. This leaves ample elbowroom for Callahan’s deadpan baritone to wonder over the likes of love, rivers and sleeping horses. If this ain’t the album of the year, I’ll eat my hat.

Tamarack Cellars Columbia Valley 2003 Firehouse Red ($20) is, much like Smog’s album, big and open as the West. Blended with cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot, cabernet franc and carmenere, this is a focused and well-balanced package with dominant flavors of black cherry and chocolate. The tannins are well in check, meaning this grog works equally well with food or without, for mere casual sipping.

Anti-Sun, Oscillations from the Anti-Sun (Too Pure Records)

Stereolab’s melange of Euro-sophistication, wall-of-sound blare and minimal, lounge-inspired vocal chirp has always appealed to hipsters, and for a moment, they were almost popular. Unfortunately, guitarist/vocalist Mary Hansen was killed in a bicycle accident in 2002 and the group seemed to lose a bit of steam. However, the release of Oscillations from the Anti-Sun recalls the good ol’ days with 35 rarities scattered over three discs (plus a collection of stickers and a DVD full of live performances and videos!) all for around $20. At their prime (basically the era covered by this collection) Stereolab could flat-out crush, and Anti-Sun captures them in all their analog-synth, art-rock, post-punk glory.

Longtime readers of this regret-filled space are well aware of the space reserved here for New Zealand sauvignon blancs. If it’s a NZSB, it’ll be consumed - quick like. We’ve avoided mentioning Kim Crawford SB because, well, it seems so ubiquitous. It’s at Costco forcryinoutloud. But the in-the-know lips began to move regarding release of the Kim Crawford 2004 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($15) and we stumbled into action. Wow! What an improvement over last year! All the great things that can be said about NZSB can be said about this bottle: grapefruit, apple, mineral, herb. Fantastic.

Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash: The Original Sun Albums The Complete Collection (Varese Sarabande)

No need to recount the Johnny Cash bio. Suffice it to say, he’ll never be matched. But where to start a collection? Check out Johnny Cash: The Original Sun Albums The Complete Collection ($50). Compiling his seven Sun LPs - all in original order and with original artwork - this is certainly the place to start building your Cash library. Also new and maybe a bit less successful is Johnny Cash: The Legend ($50), which takes a broad view of his entire catalog but divides the songs into four themes rather than placing them in coherent, chronological order. But when dealing with genius, why bitch? Just buy.

Word going around is that Ken Forrester’s 2004 South Africa Petit Chenin was the wine served at Nelson Mandela’s 85th birthday party. I know that’ll make you want to jump off the couch and run to the wine store. But wait, it gets better. It’s cheap ($9!) and it tastes good! Double bonus! There’s plenty of soft honey flavor here balanced out by decent amounts of lime and pineapple. While this bottle certainly doesn’t ring loudly with stand-up notes and long-riding flavors, it’s a great bottle of white to keep tucked in the fridge or to plug some holes that have appeared in the rack/cellar.

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