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March 23, 2017

March is Wine Month in Washington (that state north of ours). Unless you have a passion for wine, that fact is not very important.

If you do suffer from such passion, additional facts come into play: One, they make some awfully good wines in Washington, especially Big Reds; two, Washington wineries support avid marketeers, given to making deals that will appear in your supermarkets in the form of endcaps and displays; three, wine writers (online and on paper) will receive (unrequested) free samples and will be chatting up the wines — as, ahem, here.

March 9, 2017

In President Benito Tweety’s post-truth, “alternate-facts” world, it probably doesn’t matter if we reported a story with some misleading information in January’s “Wine Label Whimsy,” when we wrote about Charles Smith K Vintners 2012 MCK (Motor City Kitty) Syrah.

Lisa Sprague, one of the wine-savvy mavens at Sundance, dug out a story on “Wine News” that clarified the tale. So here it is: Charles Smith (Walla Walla) sold five of his top-selling wines, and not his top-shelf K brands, as we thought, to Constellation Brands for a mere $120 million.

January 5, 2017

Must be global weirding: A carny barker-snakeoil hustler gets elected president of the U.S.; ice forms on December rosebuds; and in the wine world, someone launches a War of Labels.

How important are labels? They’re just packaging, right? Commonly, a wine label gives the brand name, the varietal, vintage date (if there is one), alcohol percentage, a warning “(contains sulfites”); somewhere on the bottle we find the retail price, critical info. No more, at least for those enlisted in the Label War.

December 8, 2016

‘Tis the season, sure, but if you’ve got a wine geek on your love list, rejoice! For you have oodles of options, limited only by time (all gone, sorry) and money. Got gobs? No worries. Got little? Still lotsa options, some online.

Only a few years ago we could discuss a few hands-full of online websites for wine. Now, of course, online shopping for wines and wine-related gifts is huge (excuse the Trumpie term).

November 3, 2016

Zoom. There went summer, then autumn. Time flies by, like the wind.

Wind? Nah, too slow. Sometimes I used to ask students how we could calculate the speed of time. The brightest lit up, thinking. Some whipped out their smartphones. An exercise in arithmetic followed: Earth is sorta spherical, about 24,000 around miles at the equator, makes a complete rotation in 24 hours, so the day goes by at 1,000 mph. Wind? Pah: never been a 1,000 mph wind. But that’s not all.

October 6, 2016

I was ready to break into “September Song” or my whistling riff of “Early Autumn” when Mole got up in my face.

The Round Mound of Merlot almost never gets angry, but he was clearly irked: “Yuz hoit my feelins laz mont’ when yuz wrote dat I wuz smoikin’ lak da Donald. Ah wuzn’t smoikin’ ‘n’ ah ain’t lak Trump. Ah don’ even lak dat guy. He’s nasty ta wimmen ‘n’ nearly ever’body, ‘cept his pal Voldemort Pootin.’ Ah wuz jes’ smilin’ cuz weah back on track on da wines.”

September 1, 2016

Mole was moping. As I’ve said, a moping Mole is an awful omen.

“’Zup, pal?” I asked, warily.

August 4, 2016

Mole squinted at me across our battered desk. It was unsettling. “What’s buggin’ ya, pal?” he asked.

July 7, 2016

In our lab, Mole was vigorously pulling corks and polishing rimless glasses: Time for our annual “Rosé Report.”

In the last few years, rosés have really come out of the closet. Well, they never actually went into the deep closet; they just got buried (in U.S. markets anyway) under the flood of white zinfandels, sweet pink (“blush”) wines mass-produced and marketed by Cali vintners.

June 9, 2016

I squinted through the grimy glass of our office window on the 14th floor of Eugene’s oldest high-rise (and eyesore). I stared down at the city’s streets lined with flushed sweetgums and pin oaks.

We’re warming fast — maybe too fast — zooming into summer, maybe another hot, dry vintage, promising big bold pinot noirs, not the cool-country delicacy we’ve come to know and love. The global news on climate change (warming) has been grim: retreating glaciers, sweltering droughts, disappearing species.

May 5, 2016

I paused outside our lab door on the 15th floor of the old high-rise, the pebbled glass bearing the painted legend “Wine Investigations.” I pushed on the door, already ajar. My pardner, Mole, sat behind our scarred desk. He looked deeply morose.

A mopey Mole is a sad sight to behold. For newbies, my sidekick is the sweetest guy in the world. Everybody loves Mole, even though, at wine tastings, he’s invisible, leaving only the impression of a great guy. He also has an acute, critical palate, doesn’t take notes and never forgets good wines and wine-making.

April 21, 2016

When I first began to write about Oregon wine 20-some years ago (in millennia of wine, hardly a flash), there were only a couple hands-full of labels to track. Now we have more than 400, increasing almost daily. And the wines are often very good. This poses many challenges, not only for wine writers but particularly for the wineries themselves — their owners, their staff, retailers, et al.

March 17, 2016

Wine is just fermented grape juice. So what’s all the fuss and chatter?

There’s a prize in every bottle of good wine. And the prize can be very special, one that connects to memory, one that draws friends closer, one that opens experience. There’s often synergy with food: Wine makes food taste better, food makes wine taste better. 

Now, add time in the bottle. A minor miracle ensues. Horizons expand. Sweet tastes sweeter.

February 11, 2016

Valentine hugs and kisses to all y’all! But first:

Last month, we glanced briefly at benefits of maturing (aging) fine wines. The subject is too complex for one skimpy piece. Besides, we must tell the story of Bill Wilson, about time and wine and love.

In 1985, Bill was already in his mid-60s, white hair, walked with a cane, always wore his father’s Iron Cross on a ribbon around his neck. He ambled into Ambrosia, introduced himself. We talked wine.

January 21, 2016

Check the circa-1965 YouTube video of Mick Jagger and Stones crooning “Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is.” Mick looks like a kid; they all do, the whole band. Well, time is not on your side, or mine, or Mick’s or wine’s.

December 10, 2015

Traditionally, we use our December column to explore wine-related gifting for Christmas. This year, my wife — lovely Kat Chinn, a superb cook — asked, “Whatchagot for Kwanzaa and Hanukkah?” Ooops. She set off a firestorm of eye-opening research.



December 3, 2015

Traditionally, we use our December column to explore wine-related gifting for Christmas. This year, my wife — lovely Kat Chinn, a superb cook — asked, “Whatchagot for Kwanzaa and Hanukkah?” Ooops. She set off a firestorm of eye-opening research: 



November 5, 2015

Seems like only a minute ago we were sweating BBs in 104 degrees, high heat in high summer. A minute later, our granddaughter Meagan is donning her Katniss Everdeen Hunger Games costume for Halloween. Then we’re suddenly into the feast days, fussing about wines to serve, as Mole would say, “wit’ da boid.” He means turkey. I’m pretty sure.

October 1, 2015

Summer’s astrally over, and autumn’s cosmically begun. Grand times for grand wines, good time for Mole and me to issue apologies, make course corrections, loop into big red wines, all that change-of-season kinda thing.

September 10, 2015

So much to worry about — The Big One, global warming, wine growth and change. And if we really want that thrill of fear, we only have to whisper: President Trump. Shivers and trembling, fear and loathing.

August 6, 2015

In our lab at Wine Investigations, Mole and I were wilting. Temps outside, even at the 17th floor of the old high-rise, reached 105 degrees; inside wasn’t much cooler, though we keep all the wines comfy and cozy, in dark fridges, at 54 degrees, warming some, cooling others, before testing. 

For months, we’ve been searching for growers in Oregon who are experimenting with Italian varietals — sangiovese, nebbiolo, dolcetto, barbera and others.

July 2, 2015

If it’s July — and it is — and we’re getting hot — and we are — then, it must be time for pink wines. 

Years ago, when Mole and I launched our investigation of pinks, we were both skeptical. I had tasted too many insipid pinks. He took a kinda Italian view: “Pink wines. Why?”

For one, because they’re so pretty, in the glass, in the sun and across the palate.

June 11, 2015

A mole in a pout is a sight to behold, rare, and slightly scary.

Thinking I was early, I had ridden the wheezing Otis to the 15th floor of Eugene’s oldest high-rise, shuffled down the hall to our office, Wine Investigations, found Mole already in our lab, in a mope. “Hey, Sleut’,” he said, “whatcha got from all yer trackin’ wit’ out me?”

May 14, 2015

My pal/sidekick Mole always tells me the truth. One day last week, he leaned into me and, in a soothing voice, said, “Sleut’” — he calls me Sleuth, it’s an honor and I dig it — “youse gots a tulip jones.”