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July 19, 2010

NV L. Mawby, Leelanau Peninsula Sparkling Wine Brut Blanc de Blancs Methode Champenoise (Cuvee 140: April 2007/December 2009, Bottle 585 of 1122)

Sex. It's how I first got to know Lawrence Mawby. Young, inexperienced, and looking for something cheap, I turned to him--well, actually, his second-label M. Lawrence wines, which included the off-dry "Sex" rose. I was relatively new to the wine game, but had recently tried (through the generosity of relative strangers at the time) the 1990 Salon. Which meant, without dispute, that the rest of my life would be spent looking for sparkling wine that tasted like that (the odyssey continues). And while I wasn't quite sure why Champagne was so expensive, I knew I had to have it. (Again, sex seems to be the natural corollary.) What little money I could save those days wasn't going to anything else. And it sure wasn't going to "sparkling wine" from Michigan, no matter how far north, or how high in altitude, or how close it was to the latitude of Champagne. Michigan? They made football, cherries, and TP'ed my alma mater. Muck Fichigan. But on those nights where I had to bring a wine, as broke as I was, to dinner, Sex was in my price point. To most who'd never tried it, it wasn't very good, but no one's first time ever is. So I moved into his more typically dry "US" sparkling wine. I was hooked. Diversity between the rose and brut, decent flavors, I may never need prosecco again. Every now and then, I'd see the "L. Mawby" wines. Twenty-two, twenty-five, sometimes forty bucks. Yeah, right. As if. He'd convinced me with the relatively free samples, but they were no gateway. I would rather be sober. Those labels, though, talking about disgorgement dates, tirage, methode champenoise. I mean, how'd they even heard of these things in a UP town of 600 people? Well, what everyone carrying these wines knew that I didn't was that Mawby's been making wine for a long time. Sparkling wine, specifically, since 1984 under this label. I've come across them time and again, sipping glasses at wine bars in the Midwest, and at last I finally bit on a bottle. For as simple as it is, it grows on you. Sharp with ginger, a bit of pie crust, chalky city crabapple, and loads of smoky lime, the wine seems determined if nothing else. Weak, overall pretty boring, but also mysterious. I keep thinking to myself, is he doing this on purpose? Is this some sort of thesis on Michigan chardonnay? Do I buy her because she's wearing pearls--all the French and junk on the label--or do I call her younger sister with the run in her stockings? Well, the L. Mawby is of another breed. A forgettable part of some very historic lineage. And the M. Lawrence wines like Sex and US? They're shining examples of something much more common. So, I won't pick, except to say that during this entire review, I didn't mean to talk about the wine I didn't drink tonight, and yet I couldn't help myself. The ginger in this wine gets stronger on the finish. No surprise, really. I think, deep down, I've always been more Mary Ann.


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4:31 AM  

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July 18, 2010

Starbucks on a Wine Blog?

Sorry if I've been here a little less. It happens in the summer. Try as I might, I find myself drinking growlers upon growlers of beer and by the time I get to opening the wine, I'm already a few in. And when I do start to feel guilty and put the focus back on wine, I drink a lot. No, not in that way. I mean, I tend to have a glass of this, a glass of that. I don't do as much of that "750" thing I do the rest of the year. I'm out with friends, dinner, etc. Who's got time to think about it, or even really be inspired. We're out, we're drinking, hooray. I could write about those wines--sure, I've always got plenty to say--but that's not fair. Every wine is "unctuous" and "holy crap that's amazing" when you're already a few in. Plenty of other blogs do that (ooo, burn) anyway. But, truth is, that's only part of it. The rest is that, dear readers, I've been moonlighting. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the guys at The Awl have been really great. It's a site I'd been following for a while, and I was really drawn to their mission statement. Something about publishing intelligent content, not just aggregating crap. Given that that was the only requirement, it still strikes me as odd that they liked my stuff, but so far, so good. Why such a long post about this? Because I'm trying to distract you before I say that Starbucks will make America a great(er) wine country. Read more about it at The Awl. And don't worry, I'm picking up some sparkling wines today. I'll be back.


Anonymous Josh M. said...

I was SO happy to read your post about opening "growler after growler" during the summer. I'm the same way, and while I don't give up the vino, yeasty beverages just taste right during the hot and humid Midwestern summers. Take your libation vacation and don't worry too much about it.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous ─░zlediks said...

Nice Blog...
Pc Keyfi

3:37 PM  

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July 06, 2010

09 Villa des Anges, Vin de Pays d'Oc Rose Old Vines

What is that taste? Nitrates? Cured intestine? Lard? Don't run away just yet. You've not only had it, you love it. It's whatever's embedded deep in the soul of great salumi. Finocchiona, a personal favorite, but also just outside the spice of coppa, in the fat of San Daniele prosciutto, crunchy Reggiano, red pepper flakes--the fruity red flakes, not the white seeds--on a spinach pizza. It's the reason you eat this stuff instead of pork tenderloin. I don't know what happened here, but clearly something did. Something is dying. I guess, in some respects, it really just tastes like time. I'm not saying this cinsault-based wine is in rigor, but maybe the guy who made it is. It's salt. Not Morton's per se--not even the good kosher stuff. It's what salt does to food. What happens to chicken fat after it's rendered off a great bird (this is the best fat in the world, porcine fetishists be damned) crusted in the crystals. I'm telling you. That's almost wholly the definition of great rose--taking the color and force out of red wine and replacing it with... seasoning. That's precisely what's happening here. Who cares how good the fruit is? Pump in some CO2, and you might just have Bouzy on your hands. This isn't tremendous in the way that you'd bring it to a tasting with your winegeek friends. It's more edifying. When you drink it, it's how you might feel after winning an argument with your parents. See, it makes perfect sense that I come home after midnight as long as I'm sober enough in the morning to drive my sister to school. You're an adult now. You make your own choices. That's all that this wine asks of you. Don't look to the ratings. For godsake, put your flavor wheel next to the Rolodex in your recycling. And try to focus for a moment. Focus on the simple, but pure watermelon and strawberry sweetness in this wine. The slightly pink ones you buy two weeks before the farmers' market opens. The insides of those candies that didn't really taste like strawberry but came packaged in strawberry wrappers. That's exactly what this tastes like. Somebody kill a tuna. It's a purpose, a minerality, that only good rose has. Rose knows it's a food wine. It knows, unless you live near a pool or in Provence, to never position itself on its own merits. It's a wine of... possibility. One that graciously complements you, extends your party. Sure, I'll have one more if there's any shrimp left. It's the reason you can't stop eating Chinese food. The umami of cured pork and absolutely nothing else. The wonderment of why we're still here, in this bar, on a Tuesday well past bedtime. It's a way forward. An amuse bouche. Something that will never accurately be committed to words. And while this rose isn't the first to do it, it does do it and that makes it great. That's what keeps us smiling.

From time to time, we accept sponsors at 750 mL, though they have no influence on the wines we choose to review. Along those lines, one of our sponsors this month, is offering half-off shipping when you buy a half a case of wine. If you're interested, use the code juneone to buy wine online. I have no idea if this wine is sold there.


Blogger Drew said...

Nice plug for Wine Chateau next to the ad from winechateau.com What's up with that?

1:04 AM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

They offered the readers a discount. Seemed worth passing on. The banner is a paid ad.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Drew said...

Mmmm, It's not that. It's seeing quid pro quo promotion. If, let's say, a London theme named store was to offer your readers discounts, would you promote them in turn? Is it just the shipping that rocks about this place? What does the store offer beyond that? Have you experience with them beyond that? I can think of one place that is superior in most regards, no? I thought the theme of the blog was about describing experiences with wine, good bad or otherwise. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. Not like I have a vested interest in the biz anymore. :)

9:15 AM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Are you kidding me? I'm not promoting anyone. I never said anything "rocks" about this place. They bought an ad, and I'm placing it. There's not a recommendation anywhere on this site to any retail store. When people ask me where to find wines I write about, I direct them to wine-searcher.com. This site is built on independence, and I think my readers understand that. There's nothing new about web banners and promo codes. It's how websites function, and no different from what you see in the paper or on TV. Except that I do less of it than pretty much everyone else in the industry, out of respect for my readership.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Michael Alberty said...

The way it was originally worded, appearing at the end of your wine review, it read to me like you were using the power of your blog to direct people toward the Wine Chateau in order to take advantage of an offer. I think Drew's question is a fair one. If another retailer, one who didn't purchase banner space, sent you a wine offer to share with your readership, would you publish it?

Now for a separate question and feel free to say it's none of my business. But what is the purpose of 750ml now? For me part of the beauty was that independence, a complete detachment from commercial interests. That and the turning phrases to capture the emotion of wine and moments. Once you start making reference in your actual blog to folks who are paying you for banner space, well, that line becomes blurred.

12:17 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Nothing's changed. As long as I can differentiate advertising from editorial, I'll be fine. The original wording in the blog post unintentionally came off as a bit promotional. What's different here, though, is that I took the time to change it. It's a good dialogue, though. I remember having a huge argument with the editor of a popular beer magazine several years ago because they were reviewing beers that had ad space on the very next page. It's a constant struggle. On one hand, sponsorship is simply the way of the web, and as this blog gets ready to launch a much-needed redesign to make it easier for readers to find things, well, I have to pay for server space. At the same time, publications like Wine Advocate are refreshing in how well they can go ahead with their mission completely self-financed. Look, I'm going to keep writing what I want to write, whether that's on this site or on the back of a napkin, even if it says Brawny on the other side. And every time we walk up to this line, I'll expect you all to keep me on my toes. Here, though, I think we're fine.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Michael Alberty said...

Fair enough. But what about Drew's question? If anybody from here on out sends you an offer to pass along to your readership, what will the policy be? All reasonable offers passed on or will it be strictly pay-for-play?

1:20 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

The bit in the post is part of the sponsorship package. So no, as a rule, I'm not giving out space to anybody who wants it. That's not pay to play. I don't recommend anything for money, even if I truly believe in it. That will continue to be the only policy here. But, when there's something particularly relevant, such as this--the only time I ever directly recommended a store--I will.

1:32 PM  

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