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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

A Brave New Pour

Never heard of wines like Moschofilero (that’s Mo-sko-FEE-leh-ro), Txakoli (ummm… Choc-OH-lee), or how about the delicious, caramel-filled-center dessert wine known as Madeira (Me-DEER-ah)?  Fret not because Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine will navigate you through the racks of lesser known wines.  Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine offers wine lovers of all experience levels a real good buzz on these and many other unfamiliar gems.

As author, wine educator, and consumerist, Mark Oldman sheds light on the wines that have had both industry insiders and wine lovers “in the know” grinning from ear to ear for some time now.  Much in the same fashion that Oldman used in his last book, Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine, Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine is a guide with lots of easy to swallow advice.  It’s much like a friend sharing with you how these “new” wines taste, how much you can expect to spend, their availability, and what kinds of foods to pair with them.  In addition, Oldman shares little nuggets of information about the wines (via “cheat sheets”) without boring you to tears with a bunch of information only needed by hardcore grape-nuts for the WSET exam.  :)

The short and sweet of it is this – there’s a great big world of wine out there beyond Bordeaux, Burgundy and California.  Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine is a full glass of rich, new wine discoveries that will help to expand your wine horizons and build your confidence when exploring your favorite wine store.  No more will you be left holding the same old 1.5l bottle of Chardonnay and Merlot in the checkout line!

Poosh It!  If you have a wine enthusiast in your life, this is a great book to give this holiday season!

BYOB: P. Collins Pours Her Own Thoughts on a Beer Book

Earlier this year, I had the great pleasure of being an associate editor of The Wine Trials 2011.  The Wine Trials 2011 is a wine guide that showcases 175 wines under $15 that beat $50+ bottles of wine in a series of brown-bag blind tastings.  I’d like to share with you a new blind tasting adventure that my buds at Fearless Critic lived to talk about, called The Beer Trials.   Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t able to partake in this adventure or even have one frothy Belgium Blonde – beer that is!  :)  

Because of my involvement with The Wine Trials 2011, I thought that it would be best to keep my mouth shut, with my butt firmly planted on the couch in front of the TV watching football while my Sunday beer pal, P. Collins, poured out her thoughts on The Beer Trials.

Here’s P. Collins’ assessment of The Beer Trials…

When Mark asked me to review The Beer Trials I figured – sure, I like to read and I like beer.  Reviewing a book ABOUT beer should be a snap – right?

Let me start off by sharing what I personally liked about the book before sharing what I disliked about it.

I loved, loved, loved the actual beer ratings themselves (pages 60+).  As I read through the beer ratings I had a feeling much like I had as a kid when my family would get the new Sears Christmas catalog and I’d page through the toy section marking off all the items I wanted Santa to bring me.  I love beer, but with living in the first state, I must say that the selection of beers in local stores is fairly vanilla, so it was great just being able to read about the different beers that are out there in the world beyond my small state’s borders.  

Also helpful in the reviews was the price indicator – so I know which beers I’ll need to take out a second mortgage to buy.  I also tried very hard to “study” or at least take an interest in the Family/Style of each beer – I felt the need to come away at least somewhat more educated about beer than when I started the book.

As for my dislikes of The Beer Trials, I think I can sum it up into two chapters – namely 1 and 2.  I literally had to re-read the first two chapters of the book 3 times and felt like I needed to pursue my PhD in order to get through the first two chapters.   If I were reading this book on my own and didn’t feel compelled to finish it for purposes of this review, I probably would have put it down after trying to read chapters 1 & 2 the first time (and that would have been a shame because I would have missed out on all the great review information).  I felt like the authors were trying to tell me something in those chapters that would be important for me as I read further, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure it out.  The first couple of chapters just felt way too “intellectualized” for me.  But, it should be noted, that I’m more of a “boil it all down and give me the basics” kind of person.  I didn’t need all the detail or all the science behind the experiment to “get it”.

One other thing that was just…well… weird to me was the inclusion of “design” comments in the beer reviews – commentary on the labels or the bottles.   Just seemed really out of place and sort of had me scratching my head wondering what the point of that was.

So, is The Beer Trials for you?  If you are someone who likes beer and reading about different kinds of beer, yes, it’s for you – just skip to chapter 4 and then the beer reviews.  If you are a science geek who likes beer and reading about beer then you might consider this your holy grail.

Thank you P. Collins sharing your thoughts on The Beer Trials!

If you are interested in purchasing or finding out more about The Beer Trials or The Wine Trials 2011, you can find them both at Amazon.  They might make for a nice, inexpensive gift for the beer or wine lovers in your life.

Book Review: The Wine Trials 2010

I love wine books that are fresh, easy to digest, and challenges your personal beliefs or thoughts about wine.  The Wine Trials 2010, in a nutshell, tries its best to answer one simple, yet difficult question:


“Do expensive wines taste better than cheap wines?”



According to the results of a rigorous study conducted by Robin Goldstein & Alexis Herschkowitsch, the authors of The Wine Trials 2010, the answer was a resounding – NO.  The majority of wine drinkers that participated in the Wine Trials’ blind tastings actually preferred the taste of wines costing between $6 and $15 over those costing $50 or more.  


Yep, sounds kind of funny and made up.  However, in a series of blind tastings conducted around the country, with more than 6,000 glasses of wine poured from brown bagged bottles, and three book pages full of willing and ready tasters up for the challenge – the cheap stuff came out on top!


Before the authors unveil there killer values, the first 58 pages of The Wine Trials 2010 is dedicated to providing readers with all the necessary “nuts and bolts” that went into the actual experiment.  Within these pages, it also explores the psychological side of why we all have the tendency to associate cost with a particular level of quality – The Placebo Effect, as it’s called.  In this particular scenario, “A more expensive wine must taste better than a cheaper one”.  Before turning the spotlight on the wines themselves, the authors also weigh in on the industry and the folks that write about it.  Without giving away any juicy details, you’ll see why at least one of these industry movers would have much rather gone unmentioned in this book.  Finally, the authors get on with the show and take you for a ride with the 150 value wines that they say beat out the pricier stuff.  To this point, my only real beef with The Wine Trials 2010 is that the authors fail to reveal the identity of all of the expensive wines that bit the dust against their Top 150 values. The only high dollar wines that are mentioned in the book are Dom Pérignon, Beringer, Cakebread, Veuve Clicquot and a Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru from Louis Latour.  Which leads me to assume that these wines were only mentioned because they were the most recognizable high-end wine names?


Overall, I found The Wine Trials 2010 to be a great read!  It’s like getting two books for the price of one:  The Wine Trials Story and a guide with 150 wines under $15.  Several, if not many, of the value wines recommended in it are truly outstanding and certainly worth trying.  Pick up a copy, keep it in your car glove box and pull it out each time you go wine shopping.  At the very least, it’ll give you some very affordable picks that you might have otherwise passed on merely because of the price tag.  


Book Review: Gary Vaynerchuk’s 101 Wines: Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight, and Bring Thunder to Your World

gary-v-101-winesAre You A “Vayniac” Yet?  If you’re a serious wine drinker thirsty for great wine advice, then chances are you’ve either heard the name Gary Vaynerchuk around the water cooler at work or felt his “thunder” as he boldly and energetically voices his strong opinions about every wine under the sun on his video podcast called “Wine Library TV”. 


Gary V., as he is affectionately called, is currently the undisputed champion in the wine blogosphere arena and shows no signs of slowing down.  Legions of wine lovers flock to his site daily to watch him unleash the “thunder” as he calls it.  Viewers are attracted to his entertaining, unique and often times outrageous comments that are a far cry from the old and stuffy traditional wine chatterboxes.  His approach to wine is simple:  He takes out the “foo-foo” Masterpiece Theatre bullshit explanations and uses words that the “Average Wine Joe” can understand.  In other words, he’s fresh, engaging and makes drinking wine fun, exciting, and social – the way it was meant to be.


Gary Vaynerchuk’s 101 Wines, follows the same perfect recipe as his Wine Library TV podcast.  He offers readers 101 wine recommendations in a down–to-earth, funny, and easy to understand level.  Through all his years in the wine business, he’s never lost sight of the fact that wine is supposed to be fun and adventurous.


Still, 101 Wines does have a few questionable deterrents, such as the book feeling sort of like a Gary V. sales brochure.   Mr. Vaynerchuk can do more in this case than just tantalize your palate with these wonderful wines that he highlights in his book – he can also conveniently sell them to you on his website because he’s also a licensed wine merchant.  Another thing that bothered me about this book was the fact that so many of these terrific sounding wines are not going to be available in most places because a high percentage of his recommendations produced so few cases.  I mean, they sound very enticing, but how can this book be used as a wine buying guide for everyone, when everyone is just not going to have any luck finding them in their neck of the woods?


All in all, 101 Wines: Guaranteed To Inspire, Delight, And Bring Thunder To Your World, certainly achieves what the title intended in my opinion, with the exception of offering more selections that the general public can actually get their hands on at a price level that most people can swallow.


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