Wines of last year

11 January 2019

This is a list of seven bottles of wine, two big groups of wine, & two small tasting pours that I drank in 2018. I made all sorts of rules for this list—that they all be full bottles instead of tastes, that I paid for all of them, that I drank them with other people rather than alone, that they not be chenin, etc—and then I ended up breaking all of them, in one way or another. The main thing is that they’re wines that taught me something, drunk in a context that mattered, and I can’t stop thinking about them.

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Thunder mountain

11 November 2017

Image result for atlas of true names

[Ok. A month ago, I tried to write a short joke post about a wine list that was entirely Thunder Mountain Chardonnay. Then I tried to write a more thoughtful introduction to it, which is below. Then everything got out of hand. The introduction is still down there, being swiftly overtaken by events. The link to the list in progress is at the bottom.]

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30 January 2015

It’s easy to make fun of the wine-critic word salad Robert Parker invented, all layers & ripeness & things leaping from glasses–easy, too, to talk about ‘Parkerized’ wines, the style of winemaking that he is said to represent. Did he do a service, when he began to write about wine for Americans stressed out over buying $40 birthday presents for their bosses in more or less the same way that Consumer Reports reviews washing machines? In a very specific, very real way: yes. Has the idea of rating an idiosyncratic, living agricultural product in the same way as a washing machine done measurable harm? Well, yes.

And in the decades that have followed, and with all of the objections to for example the point system pretty much canon now, the wines that he got most enthusiastic over and the way he wrote about that enthusiasm have been caricatured so thoroughly that sometimes instead of attempting to parrot received wisdom it really truly is instructive to just survey & report. To put in another way: I could not write a better parody of Robert Parker’s prose, or describe the kinds of wines I’m told he liked, better than presenting his own writing with as little commentary as possible.

I came across this particular collection of text while looking for something more or less unrelated. (How a particular vintage of a modernist Barolo producer was received a decade and a half ago, if you’re curious.) So! Here are some words & phrases used by Robert Parker when he likes something. They appear, all of them, exactly as written, on a single page of his 2002 Buyers Guide. A dozen or so wines, all told. And without me saying anything more, maybe you can decide for yourself what he values in a bottle of wine, and what kind of things he likes to drink, and how he likes to write about drinking them:

up-front, sexy
sexy, in-your-face
a provocative bouquet
a luxurious bouquet
a hedonistic, explosive nose
big sweet perfume
supple and velvety
velvety and forward
ripe, and attractive
aromas jump from the glass
flavors cascade over the palate
Powerfully, unctuously textured
awesomely layered texture
with additional levels of glycerin and flavor
layers of glycerin
stunningly concentrated
fabulously concentrated
decadent level of richness
Pomerol-like lushness
Full-bodied, ripe
Full-bodied-and lush
opulent, lush, fleshy
fleshy and flamboyant
sexy, hedonistic, seamless
Rich, full, fat, opulent, and decadent
copious spice, glycerin, and alcohol
fleshy, and flamboyant, with huge glycerin levels
this textured, full-bodied, fat, lush wine.

Year in review

2 July 2014

From Twitter, between January 1 and December 21, 2013. Question for the day: how do you archive & resurrect experience of the digital over time?


My sister at breakfast: “Do you know what the German word for birth control is? ANTIBABYPILLEN.”
4 January, 3:44 p.m.

On the Difficulties of Recollecting the Plots of Novels One Has Partly Read While Drunk. #unwrittenessays
10 January, 12:48 a.m.

“…but those who believe, that Abel lived an hundred and twenty nine Years, think it improbable he should die a Batchelor.
10 January, 1:06 a.m.

“If you put front vowels in your language, nobody will take it seriously as a language of Orcs.”
11 January, 4:47 p.m.

Tarantino films that feature scenes in which characters literally give each other acting lessons: Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs.
17 January, 1:28 a.m.

“There you are, like butter in sunshine.” Martin Luther insult randomizer:
20 January, 12:50 p.m.

RT: Thank God for technology. Before Twitter, I just used to go up to strangers and whisper in their ears. @tejucole
26 January, 1:42 p.m.

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18 September 2013

card catalogs, NYPL
Room 100, including card catalogs, 1923. New York Public Library Archives.

I like book indexes because of the tantalizingly incomplete sense they give of a large, impossible object broken down into its constituent parts. And because I like lists of words.

Anyway I was at the wine store the other day paging through the Jancis Robinson-edited Oxford Companion to Wine (it is as crazy authoritative as the title would suggest), and next to the introduction there’s a two-page double-column list of 300 new entries added to the third edition. If you like, it gives a rough sense of how the canonical wine world might have changed between 1999 and 2006—you know, black-magic big industrial processes in commercial production on the one hand (plastic corks, reverse osmosis, flavour scalping, Yellowtail), formerly forgotten regions, young new wine drinkers, and nerdy, nearly-extinct indigenous grapes brought back from the dead on the other (Lacrima Nera, Xinomavro, vegetarian & vegan wine). Also, the Internet: websites finally have an entry! Did I mention I like lists of words? Like so:

Asian Lady Beetle
black dead arm
California sprawl
diotomaceous earth
direct shipping
flavour scalping
glassy winged sharpshooter
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Kangaroo Island
Lacrima Nera
macèration pelliculaire
philosophy & wine
plastic corks
reverse osmosis
vegetarian & vegan wine

He’s like the x of y.

23 August 2013

All taken from the New York Times and Washington Post. Answers below.

01. He’s like the Tocqueville of the culinary world.

02. He’s like the Beethoven of cocktails.

03. He’s like the Ingmar Bergman of poetry.

04. He’s like the Pluto of talk shows.

05. He’s like the Lou Gehrig of Stalingrad.

06. He’s like the John McCain of action heroes.

07. He’s just like the Muhammad Ali of horse racing.

08. He’s like the Cal Ripkin Jr. of NYPD spokesmen.

09. He’s like the Sheryl Crow of now.

10. He’s almost like the Zelig of homeless people.

11. He’s becoming like the Keith Richards of content.

12. He’s the Paul Newman of American presidents.


a) Spanish chef José Andrés *
b) Muslim mixologist Mojnu Hoque *
c) Tomas Tranströmer, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature *
d) Carson Daly *
e) Soviet sniper Vasily Zaitsev *
f) Chuck Norris *
g) Jockey Edgar S. Prado *
h) NYPD spokesman Paul J. Browne *
i) John Mayer *
j) Matthew Eckstine, stepson of jazz singer Billy Eckstine *
k) Merlin Bronques of LastNightsParty dot com *
l) Barack Obama *

Some lists

3 August 2013

Languages heard by fewer people in the world combined than Dothraki, the invented language of Game of Thrones nomads: Yiddish, Navajo, Inuit, Basque, Welsh.

Languages into which Georges Perec’s lipogrammatic La Disparition has been translated while preserving the constraint: German (Anton Voyls’ Fortgang); English (A Void, Vanish’d!, A Vanishing); Italian (La scomparsa); Spanish (El secuestro, no ‘a’); Dutch (‘t Manco); Swedish (Försvinna); Turkish (Kayboluş); Russian (Исчезание, no ‘o’); Japanese (En-metsu).

Nicknames of Charles Dickens’ children: the Snodgering Bee; Lucifer Box; Mild Glo’ster; Young Skull; Chickenstalker; Skittles; Ocean Spectre; the Jolly Postboy; Plorn.

Old-school newspapers: the Bee, the Comet; Press-Scimitar, Post-Intelligencer, Times-Picayune; the Argus, the Watchman, the Vigilant.

Old-school baseball teams: the Des Moines Prohibitionists, the Chicago Uniques, the Milwaukee Creams; the Spokane Bunchgrassers, the Kalamazoo Celery Pickers; the La Crosse Pinks, the Regina Bone Pliers.

Family cars: Adventure Van; Petunia Vader; Speedy Alice; Princess Buttercup; Bruce; Bonnie a.k.a. Hellfire Avenger.

Ways to call someone a wet blanket: aguafiestas; ponurak; rabat-joie; Miesmacher; ξενέρωτος; مفسد البهجة; guastafeste.

Marianne Moore’s suggestions for a new Ford Motor Company model, 1935: the Resiliant Bullet, the Intelligent Whale; Aeroterre, Pastelogram, Thunderblender; Utopian Turtletop.

How to read

29 March 2012

Things that teach you how to read them, according to the internet:

Joyce’s Ulysses
by James Joyce
Joyce, Sebald
Ulysses, Gravity’s Rainbow, J R, Infinite Jest
a diaphanous novel that reminds me of Blanchot
a certain kind of exemplary poem
poems, read carefully
no chart, book, article or person
all great books in any genre, but particularly Fashion Design Drawing Course
great works of art
Sherlock Holmes stories
Moby Dick in Pictures
every book you read
books that are assured and confident
a good experimental-form book
books that sit uncomfortably in their own era
Infinite Jest
Gravity’s Rainbow
great books, the truly great ones, but especially Infinite Jest
Ulysses, Finnegans Wake,
and other modernist works
innovative fiction, like Ulysses and Beloved
any good book
almost any book
science fiction, uniquely
the games Portal and Portal 2
the best kind of comic book
every book you read
any good book
every good book
all great books


18 March 2012

My newest age, going by the Harper’s Index: The number of moles on the average adult’s body (Dec ’88), and the number of fishing rods and tackle boxes that can be checked out of Georgia’s Tybee Island public library (Oct ’98). The estimated number of Cobra attack helicopters privately owned by Americans (April ’97). The maximum running speed (in miles per hour) of a wild turkey, and the average lifespan (in years) of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon (Nov ’90 & ’95). The number of days it takes an adult in Los Angeles to breathe in more air pollution than EPA guidelines recommend for a lifetime (Dec ’02), the estimated California black-market price, in dollars, of a state-issued handicapped parking permit (July ’91), and the minimum number of times that Frederick Douglass was beaten in what is now Donald Rumsfield’s vacation home (March ’06). The percentage of Americans who believe their presence at a sports event influences its outcome (Dec ’84). The average number of miles by which the magnetic North Pole moves each year (Dec ’02).

Yesterday I was only as old as the 1989 percentage of Iowans with lawn ornaments.


5 March 2012

From 221 entries in a notebook kept by H.P. Lovecraft between 1919 and 1934. of “ideas, images, & quotations” for “possible future use in weird fiction.”

Castaways on island eat unknown vegetation and become strangely transformed.

Rats multiply and exterminate first a single city and then all mankind. Increased size and intelligence.

Man visits museum of antiquities—asks that it accept a bas-relief he has just made—old and learned curator laughs and says he cannot accept anything so modern. Man says that “dreams are older than brooding Egypt or the contemplative Sphinx or garden-girdled Babylonia” and that he had fashioned the sculpture in his dreams. Curator bids him shew his product, and when he does so curator shews horror. Asks who the man may be. He tells modern name. “No—before that” says curator. Man does not remember except in dreams. Then curator offers high price, but man fears he means to destroy sculpture. Asks fabulous price—curator will consult directors. Add good development and describe nature of bas-relief.

Individual, by some strange process, retraces the path of evolution and becomes amphibious.

Man forced to take shelter in strange house. Host has thick beard and dark glasses. Retires. In night guest rises and sees host’s clothes about—also mask which was the apparent face of whatever the host was. Flight.

Doors found mysteriously open and shut etc.—excite terror.

Wall paper cracks off in sinister shape—man dies of fright.

Ancient negro voodoo wizard in cabin in swamp—possesses white man.

Insects or other entities from space attack and penetrate a man’s head and cause him to remember alien and exotic things—possible displacement of personality.

Migration of lemmings—Atlantis.

Vampire visits man in ancestral abode—is his own father.

The walking dead—seemingly alive, but—.

Hideous secret society—widespread—horrible rites in caverns under familiar scenes—one’s own neighbour may belong.

Disturbing conviction that all life is only a deceptive dream with some dismal or sinister horror lurking behind.

Ancient (Roman? prehistoric?) stone bridge washed away by a (sudden and curious?) storm. Something liberated which had been sealed up in the masonry of years ago. Things happen.

An odd wound appears on a man’s hand suddenly and without apparent cause. Spreads. Consequences.