Or what I should say is, go right ahead. Reading is, after all, fundamental. Just don’t put too much stock in what you read. And I don’t mean this thing that you’re reading now. I mean, of course, tasting notes.

When we left off last time, I made my case for the lie that is a wine’s numerical rating. The numbers game is nothing more than that regardless of the sincerity of the mathematician doing the adding.

This installment of my civilized rant against the cottage industry that has grown up around the codification of a wine’s merits or lack of same, on glossy magazine paper or in the ether that is the blogosphere, concerns those very things that practically all of the numbers people say consumers should pay attention to. The tasting note itself.

Ah, the tasting note. That glorious collection of adjectives and modifiers. That laundry list of fruits and vegetables, all colors under the rainbow. That geologically precise assessment of terra firma props. The leathers suitable for footwear, valise or pants holder-upper. The urinary. The scatological.

In fairness to the note writers, many are very credible sentence makers. I can think of a handful in particular I edited during my magazine life who did an artful job of describing what they had in their noses and mouths at any given moment. I think us Wine News editors were pretty lucky that way. A baker’s half-dozen out of a dozen and a half or more writers that we had to deal with (including me, by the way, on a regular basis) is a pretty good ratio. And I shall name them parenthetically just in case any of you might want to check if they blog/Twitter/Facebook/whatever. (Here they are, in no particular order: Lyn Farmer; Howard Goldberg; Steve Pitcher; Gerry Dawes; Kerin O’Keefe; Tom Hyland; Derrick Schneider.)

What’s most intriguing about my list of note takers (givers?) is that each of them have very, very different styles. And yet they all are successfully able to do the same thing: Get across the “feel” of a particular wine in a meaningful way. (Hint: There is something to this “feel” thing. More next time. Back to the subject at hand.)

The notes. Right. So, is there a more prodigious note taker than Robert Parker? His run-on sentences would make James Joyce blush with envy. And, as I always offer as a qualifier, I’m a Parker fan.

But seriously, the notes are ridiculous in their breadth and length. I won’t even go down the road of questioning whether any human being is even physiologically capable of conjuring that many smells and tastes from a minute’s worth of smelling and tasting (which is probably longer than he takes, at least according to what I’ve read; if I’m wrong, I will eagerly retract, to a degree, anyway).

What I do know for a fact, a word that technically has very little relevance to our inherently subjective subject matter, is that I’ve written more tasting notes than virtually anyone I will ever encounter in my life. Many have written more. But many more have written far less. So, I know what it takes.

Note takers don’t do business that differently. Really. You look at the wine in the glass. You swirl it around and get your nose in it. You taste it. You scribble a bunch of words. And come up with a number or puff or checkmark. It doesn’t mean all of them are as sensitive to certain things as others. Or that all of them have the background to get why Sancerre ain’t Marlborough. Not to mention that it appears from an anatomical standpoint that some of them are just better equipped to judge this stuff.

Let’s assume that the vast majority of note takers are “qualified” to do what they do. That is, competent to steer consumers toward or away from particular wines. I grant that this is a HUGE assumption (perhaps a subject for another day when I’m really in the mood to torch bridges).

OK, so that leaves us where? Nowhere, actually. It may seem obvious, and so much so that this post is a complete waste of time, but at the end of the day, as with anything that someone judges, be it art, music, food, wine, whatever, you say tomato, I say tomato (that doesn’t work so well outside of the spoken word, but you know what I mean).

One woman’s raspberry is another’s strawberry. You smell chalk, I say flint. Minerals or pencil lead? Apricot or peach? Apple? Yes, but someone will say green, someone else will get red. Or maybe Golden Delicious. Bramble or sage brush? Cut grass or maybe a touch of asparagus? This could be drawn out endlessly, and no one is right and no one is wrong. In fact, the only thing I think note takers can agree on is that white wines don’t show red/black fruit notes (sparklers aside). And red wines don’t show white fruit (again, the bubble caveat). Maybe that’s not a truism, but in this business, it’s about as close as you get to one.

Anyone disagree with the prior paragraph? Then what’s the point of detailing the minutia the note taker “gets” from a few sniffs and sips? Exactly nothing. I get that we want some sort of record of where we’ve been. It’s the equivalent, maybe, of George Washington slept here. An historical artifact, if you will. That’s fine, but as with history, very little of it is actually fact. Particularly if it’s first-person history (I know this because not only am I lawyer by trade – eyewitness testimony is inherently unreliable, and I can prove it – but was a history major in college).

I’m not suggesting that all of us sniffers and sippers don’t “get” what we get from a wine. Only that the list of what we got isn’t really useful. It doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do (i.e., give the consumer a guide to what a wine is all about). What it does do is tell the reader much more about the writer than it does the wine. In much the same way, by the way, that reviews of books, dance, movies, whatever do about their reviewers.

Maybe there’s some value in that. If you like so-and-so’s palate, then you’re getting some guidance, I suppose. But seriously, is that what all of this scoring/note writing boils down to at its core? That so-and-so’s nose/mouth is worth emulating by some number of consumers?

That’s silly.    

Next time, I will offer what I think is a truly useful way to look at wine. It doesn’t include numbers, but have no fear, there are words.



It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything on these “pages.” While I was away, it appears that the blogosphere has fixed its collective site on the 100-point scale. That interests me.

Certainly, this isn’t a new topic. The “traditional” media has touched – a very intentional word choice – on it from time to time. But that media, meaning magazine and book writers in particular, had a stake in it, too. After all, the scoring of wine became a commercial necessity post-Parker’s famed (infamous?) musings about the 1982 Bordeaux vintage as he found it in barrel.

The bloggers, as I’ve been reading over the last month or so, have been having a veritable smack down with it. The opinion ranges from scoring systems are bullshit to scoring systems serve some purpose, albeit one that should be limited in scope. There are others who take the middle road, arguing, essentially, that scoring systems are what they are, it’s the notes that truly matter.

The arguments have, no doubt, been made continuously since there was a blogosphere; it just seems like there has been more of the arguing lately. They’ve all, obviously, also been made before there was a blogosphere, usually more formally, given the style guidelines of the very grownup media those writers wrote for.

After reading this latest batch of thousands of words against (mostly), tolerating (surprisingly, a lot more than I had anticipated) and some in favor, it all finally makes sense to me now.

Scoring wines is wrong. It’s just that simple.

Not, of course, wrong like it should be illegal. Or that those who continue to do so are idiots. Not at all. I have no doubt that the opinions held by the Old Guard (the troop I came from) or the New are done so ardently and with reason. But still, I just see no point to any scales any longer.

And I didn’t used to feel so sure. I came up scoring wines on a 100-point scale. Thousands and thousands of them, in fact. I bet even Parker gets 100-point fatigue from time to time (not sure Wine Spectator does, however). It can become numbing. At some point, no matter how seriously any scorer takes his/her job, he/she must think, what on earth am I doing this for? Maybe it’s a passing thought or maybe they become subversives (see, e.g., @fakewinereviews on Twitter; for the record, not as funny as @fakeapstyle).

At the end of the day, how can any of us posit that this one is an 87 and this one’s an 88? OK. That’s not a great argument against. However, there is more than a kernel of truth to it. Wine is a living thing. We can all agree with that, can’t we?

And we should also be able to agree that if we all opened the same bottle at the same time, the chances are that there would be a fairly ample score disparity. It might only range from, say, the 85ers to the 89ers. But to that producer, that’s a huge spread. For consumers who buy strictly on so-and-so’s ratings, it’s of vital importance.  

And what’s even more true is that a score reflects (assuming it even does that) a specific point in time for that wine, whether the scorer contemplated the glass for two minutes or 20. And honestly, people who score wines don’t wait 20 minutes to come up with the number unless they’re doing a special type of tasting. So, the time period that actually sets that wine’s merit (or lack thereof) in stone (print) is probably about five minutes, plus or minus. How crazy is that? If I spent 45 minutes with that Chianti, it would bear little resemblance to itself at five minutes open.

Scores are like financial statements. They show the wine’s P&Ls at one moment in time. And we all know how a financial statement can be healthy one minute (month) and not so the next.

A snapshot of anything shows only that anything at that precise moment. And I know for a fact that every time I open the same bottle at different times, the wine just isn’t the same. Sure, there will be some family traits, but the big lie that is – intentionally, or what I prefer to think, unintentionally – foisted on the consuming public is that the 92 assigned is the end of, rather than the start of, the discussion about that wine. That’s why people collect reams and reams of buying guides.

And it’s just not true. How’d you like to be sized up and dismissed out of hand after getting a five-minute onceover at a bar? We’ve all been there. Can you hear that battered Soave plaintively begging to just be given a chance?

Even worse, when you try to correlate different systems – puffs, 25-pointers, checkmarks, pluses/minuses, whatever – it’s like speaking Latin to someone who talks in tongues. Is three out of five, which, according to my paltry math skills, is 60%, really the same as a 60 on a 100-point scale? Of course not. So, what is it then? An 85? Is it? Why should I know that? Or more to the point, why should I even have to think about it?

The scorers don’t even speak the same math. I’ve done some judging in France where a range is used for each component (sight, smell, taste, overall) and the total doesn’t end up being 100. Twenty points awardable for nose; 10 for hue, 12 for this, 8 for that, etc. I don’t even know where to start. I end up just mumbling, “Pas mal,” and hope it’ll be over soon.

And the gods forbid if any of the scorers have a bias (or blind spot). There was a guy on the tasting panel I plied my primary scoring on who just didn’t believe that a Chianti could EVER merit a 90 or above. And he was no dope. He had a good palate and he was very deliberate about his tasting. But he just didn’t get Chianti (or maybe sangiovese). I’d argue with him, but at the end of the day, he was no more “right” or “wrong” than I was about my French/Italian bias. We liked what we liked, and we tried to be open minded about that other stuff.

Perhaps if all of the raters used the same scale with the same criteria there would be some sense to the math. But that’s never going to happen. The only purpose a numerical (or any other system) can possibly serve is as a shorthand summary of how “good” a wine is for consumers who probably don’t know anything about that wine, where it’s from or the producer who makes it. In other words, scores are, if they are anything, crutches leaned on by the ignorant or lazy.

No offense intended. I’m lazy and ignorant about plenty of things. Just not what I put in my mouth.

This has already exceeded the permissible word count. Sorry about that, but thanks if you stayed with me. Next time, I will do my best to unmask the fraud that is the tasting note. And the time after that, offer what I believe to be the only sensible way to characterize wine in print.



I’m posting this on the assumption that “civilians,” that is those who are into wine but aren’t in the business, might be interested in a peek behind the curtain. My former editors at Wine News would no doubt disagree, and say leave the industry stuff to the industrialists. No matter. It’s my blog and I’ll post if I want to. (For the record, I’m also very aware that this opening paragraph violates many of the what-not-to-do writing precepts.)

Here goes. I am newly in the business of wine selling. I source small producers in various parts of the wine world, bring their produce to New York City and then try to sell it myself. No sales staff. No managers. Not even a delivery service. Just me.

As such, I’m about as intimately involved in the process as an importer/distributor can possibly be. Having had zero experience in sales before becoming a salesperson, I’ve obviously had much to learn, and I’d like to think that in the eight or so months since I’ve been selling, I have indeed learned a great deal.

Perhaps the single most important thing I’ve learned – and very much accepted – is that none of the things that happen in the selling game should be taken personally. After all, as Michael Corleone learned all too well, it’s business, not personal.

That said, what is incomprehensible to me is not that any of you who are in the business of buying and then reselling wine from people like me don’t all want to buy my stuff. It’s that those of you who don’t just won’t say so.

It’s just that simple. I’m OK with not convincing you that my wines belong in your store or restaurant; I just think that I (we) deserve closure. At least until the next go around.

Yes, I very much appreciate that you are bombarded with requests for your time. And yes, I also know that those of us slinging our wares talk a big game about how “great,” “unique,” “interesting,” “artisanal,” blah, blah, blah our stuff is. (In fairness to those who sell the Yellow Tails of the world, we know that you don’t make such claims.)

And, of course, I know that regardless of how qualified (or overqualified) I may be, it’s not like I deserve an appointment, much less a sale. Got it. Believe me.

There are two unsuccessful sales call scenarios that make me think that you’re looking at things all the wrong way. And I want to help you utilize your valuable time better. I mean it.

To ignore me is to encourage me

When you don’t respond to my inquiries, a few things come to mind. And let me preface this by saying, I don’t mean out-and-out cold calls. I firmly believe that while the more humane practice might be to just say no thanks and be done with me, I understand that this isn’t the way things are done in sales. Of anything. Be it pork belly futures, insurance, wine, whatever. A cold call entitles the cold caller to nothing other than maybe a cold shoulder.

I’m talking about the situation where I’ve actually managed to get to you in person, and have engaged you in some sort of colloquy about your store/restaurant vis-à-vis my portfolio. Information, written or otherwise, has been exchanged, and assurances have been given, without ANY commitment whatsoever on your part, that I should follow up with you at such-and-such time.

So far, so good. Honestly, when I walk into your place and introduce myself, I expect nothing but some measure civility on your part (and even that’s not really assumed). If you show any interest in what it is that I’m doing, all the better for me. Maybe. I still know that there is a ways to go before I’m even granted an appointment to pour a few of my wines. And I can think of only one or two occasions when I felt that your behavior would not have made your parents proud. That’s OK; it’s the cost of doing business.

It’s what happens, or I should say, doesn’t happen, next that makes no sense to me. If you say that I should follow up with you, by phone, e-mail, whatever, you have to know that I will. Right? I mean, I’m in sales, and I can’t sell to you if I don’t do stuff like follow up with you.

And invariably I do. And usually do so again. And often again. And again. And, well, nothing in return. Keep in mind that I’m only doing what you told me I should do. I’m no hardcore, “Glengarry Glen Ross” sales pro, so I do, in fact, take no for an answer. So, when I come in the first time and you tell me to take a hike, I do so. Gracefully.

For you who don’t tell me to just leave you alone, at some point, even I will reach the tipping point. Once I do, I’ll stop sending you e-mails or calling you, but only for a time. I’ll let you deal with all of those complications that made it too difficult for you to simply respond to the voice mails or e-mails with a simple “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” At some point, I’ll try again. Why wouldn’t I? You told me to reach out to you.

The question begs: Why on earth did you ask me to reach out to you if you really didn’t want to be reached? Perhaps you just don’t like saying no. I get that. Who wants to be the naysayer? Maybe you were in my place once, either as a child or as a distributor, and just can’t bear to disappoint those who express interest in you. I get that, too. I mean who hasn’t gone on a mercy date? We all have. And can’t we all agree that they always suck? For everyone.

Or maybe the timing just isn’t right. After all, business can be very fluid. A wine style is in. Then it’s out. Price points. The weather. All sorts of things. I get that. Wouldn’t it make more sense just to say that the weather changed? Or the price point isn’t right? Or even that you just don’t have any money to toss my way? All very legitimate (even if you’re just using them for cover). 

The organ grinder

This next scenario is actually far, far more perplexing (and vexing) to me. This is the one where we’ve clearly, by any objective standard of review, established a rapport. I’m not saying that we’re exchanging god children. Only that we’ve now spent some quality time together, either tasting and chatting, or maybe just chatting more than a few times. And not just about me. A lot about you and what you’re trying to do in your store/restaurant. We all want to believe that we have something unique to add to the business of selling wine. You no less than me, and I try very hard to get into places that see wine as much more than grape juice at a price point. And I know you do, too. We’re fellow travelers.

Let’s say that I’ve gotten past Stage 1 and managed to get an appointment to show you a few wines. Again, that’s a big, big stage, but it guarantees NO commitment on your part whatsoever. I know that, and that’s as it should be. So, we sit (or stand) and I open a few bottles (very few, because I know bottles are foisted upon you constantly). I do some selling: This husband-wife team lives in survivalist country in the Columbia Gorge; in fact, the Michigan Militia goes there to train, that’s how remote it is. Very Borscht Belt, I know.

Anyway, you try the wines and like (or more so) one (or more) of them. We talk about my wines, your place, the wines you’re personally interested in, the business of wine, etc., etc., etc. Again, you’ve not committed yourself to me/my wines. I’m more than OK with that.

What happens next (or, again, doesn’t) is that I never hear from you again after I do the requisite follow up (although, I have to say that after having a lovely back-and-forth tasting experience with you, my follow up is more earnest and more appreciative). And then…nothing. Not “I loved that [those] and want xx bottles of it [them] immediately, if not sooner.” Not “You know, I loved it [them] but need to clear some space; check back in xx weeks.” Or, “Love you, love them, just can’t do it right now.” Or even, “Not now, maybe later.”

Here’s the extreme situation (I will name the buyer and the place if enough readers demand that I do): This is a very prominent wine store. I developed a bit of a relationship with those in the store by spending lots of my own money there; giving them lots of shipping containers that I wanted to get rid of after moving from Miami to the big city (by the way, these containers cost money, so I saved them money by giving them away); they knew (or some of them did) that I was a former wine writer at a national publication, which in and of itself doesn’t matter, but at least merits at least a modicum of professed professional courtesy); and, lastly, that I was going into the business of importing and distributing wine.

So, when I finally got all my Ts crossed and Is dotted, I went in there and did my here’s-my-portfolio-and-this-is-what-I’m-trying-to-do-and-I-really-want-to-work-with-you thing. Through proper channels, of course. I had ZERO expectations. I only hoped that I would be looked at.

The buyer told me to my face that they were too busy to actually taste with me (probably, no definitely, a lie, but I’m OK with that), but if I would pick a few bottles and leave them, he assured me that they would be tasted.

Just so you civilians know, wine costs money for those in the business, whether it’s at wholesale or from the source (my price), but I was willing (happy) to do it in order to foster a relationship and maybe get something on the shelves of this very prestigious wine store.

I dropped off four bottles (one too many, in retrospect) as I was asked to do. (For the record, I wasn’t asked to submit four or two or ten; I was asked to submit whatever I wanted to submit.) I waited about two weeks and then followed up directly with the guy who said that this is what I needed to do. And I followed up. And I followed up. Finally, he assured me that he would get back to me on Monday. He didn’t.

Then he did, and said that they just didn’t have any openings. Not, your wines were OK or your wines sucked. Nothing other than the perception that what did I expect him to say. He actually even raised both his hands in that universal sign of surrender/get the fuck away from me. So I did. And won’t waste my (or his) time ever again.

Fair enough. But seriously, wouldn’t it have been easier for both of us if he had just said so two months earlier? By doing so, not only would he have not felt put upon/harassed/annoyed, he would have had all of the time that it took for him to read (or delete) my e-mails and the face-to-face confrontations to do other things.

I don’t know, maybe I’m a romantic, but it seems to me that even if you don’t look at it as a simple question of do-the-right-thing, the efficiencies of just saying no outweigh any possible avoidance justifications.

Step up to the plate, you buyers of wine. Us sellers will be OK one way or the other. It would just be nice to know which way we’re on.  



Mamma mia, was about all I could think to gasp when I was presented with a bottle of Grandma Maria’s, a non-vintage sangiovese/cabernet sauvignon blend bearing the over-utilized Toscana IGT locator.

The price: a cool $3.99. The label: a corpulent nonna (presumably of the Italian-American persuasion because the Old World version generally isn’t, and doesn’t use oven mitts, either) stirring an enormous (again, by Italian standards) cauldron of red sauce on a background of the ubiquitous checkered vinyl tablecloth.

Before I could hurl it away (or was that just hurl?), I thought, WTF? I’ve got nothing better to do tonight. I’ll give the bottle a twist, and see what comes out.

Normally, I’m not so sanguine about obvious gimmicky hooks, be they in the wine world or any of the other worlds that us consumers inhabit. I’ve spent a lot of my life convinced that unlike the rest of you suckers, Madison Avenue holds no sway over me (I’ve never even watched an “American Idol” trailer, much less an episode). I will, however, concede that making such a statement probably has the Mad Men winking in the knowledge that I’m theirs, just in a different way.

So as to not engage in any revisionist history, here’s what I jotted down. Verbatim, I think I’m ashamed to say. Nose: “dusty, cedary, classic S[angiovese], dried tobacco, hint of shy red berry.” Mouth: “raspy, citrusy acidity, not getting the C[ab], pretty good balance, tart dried berries.”

Luckily, I’m no longer obligated to score wines, so I needn’t risk getting kicked out of the I’m-an-expert-taster club. The bottom line was this thing wasn’t half bad. In fact, it wasn’t at all bad in any way, shape or form. Yikes.

It feels good to admit it. Sort of. Because for all the egalitarian talk these days about wine, at the end of the day, don’t us “experts” secretly harbor very reactionary wine preferences? I know I do. Give me Krug, or give me an unhappy life. I prefer my claret to be decidedly of the classified variety (not to mention hailing from Pauillac). It’s true that I represent teeny, tiny producers, none of whom would ever be mistaken for a Screaming Eagle (in reputation, that is). But at the same time, don’t your salivary glands and nose hairs get a bit excited when contemplating a sniff then sip of Haut-Brion or Grange or DRC? Particularly, if you’re not footing the bill.

Grandma Maria’s actually nicely represents two polarities I have never been able to reconcile. Until now, that is.

First pole: This is the golden age of winemaking. It’s almost literally impossible to make bad wine at the commercial level. And when I mean “bad,” I mean wine that is not capable of being swallowed. I don’t care what anyone says, that animal is extinct (though its epoch was not that long ago).

The flip side of no longer having to worry about gagging when swallowing (yes, I know that’s an inappropriate image) is that there are literally oceans of technically correct and wholly uninteresting wine out there. Couple that with new appellations coming on line almost daily and the proliferation of new labels, and today’s consumer is burdened like never before when making (or trying to make) informed choices.

I give PV383/IT credit for coming up with its concept and making this wine. Yes, that is the “producer.” It says so on the label. In other words, no suggestion about an ancestral home in the rolling Chianti Hills. Nor a weepy multigenerational commitment to the art of the vine. Just a solidly made, if not moving, red. How’s this for no bullshit in marketing? The back label actually has a meat-based pasta sauce recipe on it under the heading, “Cooking with Grandma Maria.” Truth in advertising. Nice concept.

I’m not actually reconciling the fact that all wine is well made, though much of it is not interesting. Just that I’m finally OK with it.

All of which just proves that the more I know about wine, really, the more I don’t.



It’s not often that you come across a wine that bridges two disparate eras of your own life. I did just a few weeks ago at Bar Boulud, Daniel Boulud’s charcuterie-centric outpost on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

The wine was a chardonnay from Stony Hill. The year on the label was 1979. Even for a collection of restaurants that range from casual to very, very white tablecloth, all of which that take wine very, very seriously, this was an odd find.

Michael Madrigale, chief wine guy at Bar Boulud, set the stage for my back-to-the-future moment (really a few hours) by picking up a case of a wine that has to be considered way beyond rarity status. After all, there’s not that much Stony Hill made to begin with (as an aside, if you see the riesling on a list, buy it now; it’s Alsace-like in its balance and nuance).

I’m a child of the Age of Aquarius, so I grew up during the ‘70s and reached the age of consent in the early ‘80s, two decades that must be among the most dissimilar in the 20th century.

Once past the anguish of Watergate, we seemed to just do a collective shrug and say, well, “Have a nice day,” and be done with it. Shag carpet, fondue (the first go around, that is), earth tones, the birth and death of disco, big hair – or should I say, lots of hair, so as to distinguish the ‘80s version of follicle prowess? The Jackson 5, breaker 1-9, The Brady Bunch, “Philadelphia Freedom,” “The Godfather[s],” “The French Connection[s],” “Car Wash.” I could, but won’t, go on forever.

The ‘80s? Greed wasn’t really good. Reagan stared down the Evil Empire, whether he knew what he was doing or not. “Beat It,” AIDS, Ollie North. My first marriage. See where I’m going with this?

When I ordered the wine, there was an immediate buzz behind the very long bar. I saw whispering, though couldn’t hear whether they were suggesting that I was insane for ordering a $150 bottle to pair with my charcuterie. By myself.

It didn’t take long for Madrigale to come by. In addition to being perplexed as to why such a bottle would be on the list, I asked him about the magnum of Bichot Corton-Charlemagne (the year escapes me, but it was very far from being current) he was in the process of opening and offering up pours of for $25. He said that he picks up odd lots at auction from time to time, and likes to augment what is already a formidable list with things that will get a raised eyebrow. He got both of mine.

Madrigal said that of the half or so of the case he’d gone through, only one bottle was off. Mine wasn’t. Stony Hill is renowned for a few things. No malo. Ever. Fiery acidity. Always. Because of those two factoids, I figured I was making a pretty good bet.

The juxtaposition of the Corton-Charlemagne was actually pretty apt. Stony Hill, to me anyway, is maybe the most C-C-like of the steely-side California chardonnay producers (they do exist, by the way). When young, like I was in 1979, I bet this thing was barely drinkable. That is, unless acidity and minerality are your things. Back then, they wouldn’t have been for me, the 16-year-old Pepsi drinker. Like a young C-C, you’re going to get lime peel, not buttery oak. More cold slate than warm stone fruit.

But unlike the ‘80s, that haven’t, so far anyway, aged very well in retrospect, the Stony Hill, 31 years out, was all grace and generosity, with a hint of its diminishing acidic prowess. Clearly its best days are long past, but it still offers a window into another era.

Imagine. Pre-Parker. Pre-Screaming Eagle. Pre-American Idol. Pre-blogs, for that matter. Not a simpler time, but certainly a less crowded one.

Thanks for the memories, Michael. Most of them, anyway.