Sunday, March 29, 2009

Three Questions: About Italy, Italian Wine and the Wine Business

Three emails that arrived recently:

1- I am going to Italy next month. We will be visiting Florence and wondered if there were some wineries we should visit. What should we see?

2- I am new to wines and Italian wines as well. Our family eats together at least four nights a week and I am trying to find a wine that we can enjoy with our meals. There are five of us and four who are old enough to drink wine. Do you have any suggestions?

3- I love wine and want to be in the wine industry. Could you tell me where I could start out?

1- If you are going to Italy during the Easter holiday there will be times when the wineries will be unavailable. Vinitaly goes from April 2-6 and then there is Holy Week, Easter and the day after Easter. So the first half of the month is taken up with a wine fair and a national holiday. I would suggest you go to Florence, enjoy visiting museums and eating out and don’t worry too much if you don’t get to a winery. If you do want to go into the Tuscan countryside try and find an enoteca like the National one in Siena. There is also a good regional tasting room in Greve as there are also ones in Montepulciano and elsewhere. These will be open and can be fun and instructive. But Italy is a country of vineyards, so it won’t be difficult to come into contact with wine. That is the beauty of Italy, wine is everywhere and you don’t have to look so hard to find something that has to do with wine. Just enjoy the moment and the country and the people and the food and the wine will be right there with them.

2- If you are on a budget and are looking to find wine you can drink on a daily basis, I would start with something basic, like a basic Chianti or a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for a red and a light white, maybe a Soave or an inexpensive southern white from Italy like a Grillo or a Falanghina. Plan on spending $8-10 a bottle for a decent wine and budget it like you would vegetables or protein. Look for sales, find a merchant or a little store where you can find good values. In most large towns there is an Italian store, like Claro’s in Southern California or Jimmy’s in Dallas. These stores have a clientele who are used to drinking wine on a regular basis, so they are looking for values. Remember wine is an integral part of the Italian lifestyle and it doesn’t need to be a Barolo or a Brunello every night. That’s what they have Dolcetto and Rosso Toscano for (once in a while, though, it's nice to break out something special). Above all, remember to take the time at the table to enjoy the whole experience and the wine will taste much better.

3- If you want to be in the business a good place to start is in a restaurant. Be a server; find a place that has a good wine program. Usually folks from the trade will frequent it and you will have the opportunity to network and move your way through the industry. Another way is through a retail store or even a market that has a good wine program, like Whole Foods or Stew Leonard’s in the Northeast. If you want to get on in the wholesale end, those companies usually have an entry level that most folks starting out have to go through. The steps usually are an orientation period, a trainee period, possibly a merchandising position and then a route assignment that is usually a route that is saved for beginners. Once one goes through these steps then one is assigned a route that can make a little more money. Another way is to work for a smaller or start-up company. These usually are a good way to meet the important accounts in your area and get to know if you can develop a rapport with the players. If you can and do it well, then you will be valuable to any wholesaler, as these key customers are major players and every company vies for their business.

Everyone has to start out at the beginning, even the experts. Oh, the stories I could tell you...

Italian Wine Guy with three Master Somm's, Guy Stout, Drew Hendrix and James Tidwell, evaluating new wines.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

I'm wild again, beguilded again

What a confusing time. I have spent the better part of the week out in the trade and I have a headache. We are nearing the end of the first quarter and Vinitaly is just around the corner. What I have encountered this week, some of it has been good. Some of it has been downright bewildering.

Earlier this week my bees hive became overpopulated and the hive split. The new colony hovered over a tree limb as a storm approached. Eventually they made their way to wherever they were going. I love my bees; they keep my yard healthy and happy. And they keep the hornets away. The bees are productive, usually gentle creatures and I like working around them in my yard.

Likewise, this week when working out in the market, I ran into a group of young sommeliers, the future leaders of the wine scene in these parts. They were an energetic bunch of fellows who really seemed to be excited about the wine business. One wine several of them flipped over was a simple Moscato d’ Asti. We’re talking a 5.5% sweet fizzy wine. Not exactly like the 1988 Pichon Lalande that was on the table. But some of these somms just went nuts over this wine. That does my heart good, because to be able to appreciate a low alcohol, sweet fizzy wine for what it is gives one the ability to embrace all kinds of wines.

I was talking to Scott Barber, who was named Texas’ best sommelier in 2008 at Texsom. Scott lived in Italy for a time and loves to talk Italian wine. I was hoping to see him on this day, so it was fortunate that we ran into each other. He really has a passion for Italian wine in a genuine way. Such a contrast from a certain wine director that I have been struggling to find a communications equilibrium with. But more on that down in the post. Scott, born in a great year for Barolo and Aglianico (1968) really encourages me to keep climbing the mountain.

During a lunch with an Italian supplier friend of mine, she related an incident that happened to her. She went into a retail store to get a couple of bottles of her wine. She needed some to show to clients. She knew what she wanted. A sales clerk approached her and asked if he could help her. When she told the fellow what she was looking for, he attempted to try and sell her away from it. “What if I was a consumer? What kind of message would that send?” she said. Well, she was the consumer, and the message I took from it was that the wine she had come in the store to buy, the one she liked and wanted wasn’t, by the behavior of the clerk, thought to be a very good wine by the establishment that was stocking it. So if one of the wines that was in the store someone who worked there didn’t like, or was trying to sell the customer away from it, why would anybody have any confidence in that person to sell them something else? In other words, why would a store have a wine in stock if they didn’t have some small belief in the validity of that wine? I’ll tell you. The store has a private label, which has a greater profit margin on it and probably an incentive for the guy on the floor to push it. Ok, I understand that. But how about this: a customer walks into a wine store looking for a specific bottle. The clerk helps them find that bottle and then says, “If you like that wine, we also have this wine which you might also like.” He validates her taste and marries it to his other product. Bingo, a clean double. Ah, if the world only ran like I wanted it to.

But here’s the one that really blew my mind this week. One of the somms that I ran into works at a little spot. This spot decided to change up their wine list, “freshen it up”. They removed a wine from the list that I liked a lot, a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. In a year this little spot bought 117 cases of the wine. Over that time the gross profits in dollars, for that one wine, was over $40,000.00. But they took the wine off the list, because they wanted some new faces. Were the customers tired of the product? Doesn’t seem like it. I went and talked to the owners, I thought they understood what I was saying, seemed to agree. But is the wine back on the list? Not as of this time. Young somm just says it’s the owner’s decision. Young somm, if you don’t give good advice to your owner, you’ll be out of a job someday. That’s really the bottom line on that argument. Unless you like being unemployed.

There’s another hot restaurant in a tony part of town. Can’t get into the place. Two hour wait. Won’t take reservations. Young chef gets lots of ink. Young chef has worked in a fair amount of places in a short career. But young chef is “hot”.
Young chef told wine people,
“I’m tired of all you wine salespeople coming into my restaurant and taking up the time of my bar manager. It’s just wine, why are you all making such a big deal of it? People don’t come into my restaurant because of your wine; they come in here for my food.”
Some of these wine purveyors had been coming into his restaurant and spending a fair amount of money on his food. Why would they go back? I’m not interested in stepping into the place. But this kind of thing has been happening a lot lately. Brash and arrogant egos getting in the way of good business decisions. They come- they go. I’ve seen hundreds of them. I’ve gone to funeral of chefs who died before they were 40, because they thought the rules didn’t apply to them.

So, yes we aren’t quite on the wine trail in Italy on this one, but this is part of the Stations of the Cross we have chosen to carry up to our Mt. Calvary. You think they’d listen to some of us silverbacks.

Well, at least I’ve got Scott and guys like him to help me bear that rugged old cross. And somewhere I have to dig out that old ’68 Monfortino and pop it for the young bees buzzing around my hive.

Photos by Diane Arbus

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fear of Lots

The Ancients prayed for it. Gods and goddesses were created for it. Temples were raised and burned because of it. Dynasties arose and fell with it. And through the ages, mankind learned to live with it. Or without it.

So, as one of my childhood friend’s Jewish mamma said, “So now what’s the problem?”

Can abundance be too much of a good thing? Have we reached a tipping point when it comes to wine, and Italian wine, in the New World?

Maybe it is because we’re approaching Vinitaly (April 2-6) but there isn’t a day that passes without at least two or three emails from some hopeful producer in Italy looking to sell their wines. Their web sites still use that abominable interface Flash, even though years ago I admonished the Italian wine producers to lose Flash on their websites or lose potential customers. They didn’t listen. Now the spigots have been turned loose and they just want to get in, under the imaginary (but very real) limbo pole.

Dixie Huey is a bright young person who has a wine consulting company and a website to pass along her advice. Recently she wrote a great post, Seeking Distribution: Tips for New or Growing Wineries on How to Approach the Wholesale System (here in PDF format, great for forwarding), which is required reading for anybody looking to get into the American market. I have already sent it around the world several times this week. Read the post, forward the PDF file to anyone who has the dream of being in America. It is simple to understand, but hard to put into practice. But it’s golden advice for the cost of a few minutes of reading.

Now that is just for folks looking to enter into a traditional importer/wholesale channel. There are emerging and alternative ways to come to market. Several folks I know use a NY based importer that essentially provides compliance help with bringing the wines into the U.S., a warehouse to store the wines, and a delivery and invoice system for sending the orders to restaurants and retailers. My understanding is that this service is available on the east coast. But one of my friends, Andrea, has sold close to a container of wine in three months,by himself. And in these times that is pretty admirable. But let’s have no illusions about it; he worked the streets daily, up and down the subways, bag of wine samples, getting every last order. He didn’t send a fax from Portofino to see about his business. He was and is on the ground. And no, he won’t be going to Vinitaly to look for more wineries, he already has more than he can say grace over. But he’s paying his bills, and soon, he’ll even cut a check for himself.

If an importer actually asked me for my advice, about what to do right now, what would that advice be?

1) Bring us wines that aren’t over 14% in alcohol. They are just too darned tedious to drink. I don’t care if you put an ice cube in every bottle, get those alcohol levels down. If they can invent spinning cones and deep purple, for God’s sake, these winemakers can figure out how to make a wine that doesn’t burn going down.

2) Wean your winery off of small French oak barrels. Put the savings into vessels that can be used longer. The Romans invented concrete, or did you all forget about that?

3) Enough with all these fantasy names. You have line extended beyond all reason. Make a Chianti Classico as well as you can. And leave Merlot and Syrah (and Cabernet) to other countries.

4) Quit using the talking point, “We are making a traditional wine with an eye towards innovation.” That’s just a load of horse manure. Stop it.

5) You want to invest in your future in the American market? Then quit trying to make your Ferrari payment on every bottle. Invest by making less in the beginning, like my friend Andrea is doing. Take fewer vacations to Cuba or Sri Lanka and get back in the game. We don’t need any more absentee winemakers.

6) It doesn’t matter one iota if you are a count or a baron or any kind of titled person or that you are wealthy or famous or powerful. You want to succeed in the wine business in America? Get on over here, or hire someone to live and work here, and beat the streets, daily.

7) Don’t expect the wholesaler or the importer or Robert Parker or Gary Vaynerchuck to build your brand for you. You are the brand; pump your own damn gas.

We are here to work with you, not for you. We are not your slaves or your little young American idiots. We are not the center of the universe, nor are you. If you want to plant your feet in this sandbox and be successful, you’ll have to overcome any fear of work, of toiling in the fields of commerce, and in a setting that is crowded with lots of other hopefuls wanting to get their wines flowing in the American marketplace.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

And They Call Wine Bloggers Irresponsible?

Am I opposed to mainstream journalism? Of course not. Some of my best friends are underpaid journalists just looking for a way to make a living. And they have a certain standard, a code of ethics that I find admirable and worthy of emulating. So when I saw the front of last week’s Weekend Journal (Wall Street Journal) with a section front promo at the top shouting “Never order the Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio,” I turned Refosco red.

Disclosure: I do not sell Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. In the past I worked on the floor of restaurants, as a server and as a wine director, and during those times I have sold the wine. I remember when it was not a brand and no one had ever hear of Santa Margherita, let alone Pinot Grigio. That was back when everyone, including Saddam Hussein, was drinking Lancers Rose. During a stretch between the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s, I worked for a wine distributor selling the wine. But at this time I have no interest and make no money selling or promoting the brand. Neither Santa Margherita nor Terlato Wines International asked me to write this nor was I ever approached to do this piece by anyone. I recently met Tony Terlato at a cocktail party, and we posed for a picture together. In fact I compete, hard, to sell Pinot Grigios other than Santa Margherita.

That said, I was pissed. Let me tell you why.

Putting the section-front promo line at the top with the line “Never order the Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio” might have been the work of the section editor. If it was meant to get someone’s attention to turn to page W3, it did so in a style that I find shoddy and sensational. We are reading the Wall Street Journal, not tuning in to the car chases at Fox News. I don’t know whose decision it was, and would like to think the authors of the piece most likely had little of nothing to do with it. So we either have an editor who is looking to give us a jolt, or someone who is very insensitive or just plain ignorant about wine. Would they run a promo that said “Never order Nathan’s hot dogs”? Or, “Never order Budweiser beer”? This is irresponsible and reprehensible. Doesn’t mainstream dead-tree journalism have enough problems?

As to the authors, I can understand their frustration with seeing the wine offered on wine lists at a larger than normal mark up. But why stop at Santa Margherita? Are the authors anti-Santites? And to offer up a Gruner Veltliner, as they do, because it is a better value might be a really cool way to snowboard off the avalanche they just found themselves on. But it was a cheap shot. How many Italian restaurants have Gruner on their wine list? And Italian restaurants are where you will find most of the Santa Margherita being sold these days.

And so you say, they found it on a non-Italian restaurant and give John and Dorothy a break for Crissakes? Look, there are reasons for both wines. And if someone wants a familiar, comfortable wine, and they are willing to pay the premium for it, God Bless ‘em. Isn’t that more fiscally responsible than running up their charge cards with therapy?

But my complaint isn’t with John and Dorothy trying to get folks to spend down in a restaurant. My larger gripe is that these folks work for a financial journal. And Santa Margherita is an economic success story for Italy and America. Why single it out so cavalierly when the consequences for such advice will fall on the Italian farmers and American wine salesmen?

Why would a journalist or an editor want to punish them with promo lines and assertions of outrageous pricing, when it is the restaurants that are setting the pricing? Most likely some back-of-the-house bean counter looking at COGS, thinking they can get away with it. Or, maybe nobody thought this through? And the MSM calls us wine bloggers irresponsible. Yeah, right.

"If you stick within your comfort zone, the wines that you already know and you already like, you will be punished, pricewise. Get away from Chardonnay. Get away from Pinot Grigio." - John Brecher

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Making Gold in Old California

I have been in the Zinfandel Capital of the World this week for the Lodi International Wine Awards and the Sommelier Journal Terroir Experience. Both required a lot of tasting, and in a few days I’ve had several hundred wines pass my lips.

If you are looking to do some California wine tourism while taking in some of the Old California Sierra beauty, this is a nice alternative to the North Coast. There’s a lot to love about Napa and Sonoma and the whole North Coast, so this isn’t a slam to those friends over there.

I remember as a youngun’ taking my Fiat 124 Sport Coupe up into the little towns of the foothills, Ione, Plymouth, Murphys, Sutter Creek, Jackson; usually on our way to Yosemite. I loved the pioneer feel to the place back then, in the early 1970’s. Well, there still is an unfettered and unspoiled way about the place. The wines are in transition. The farther you get away from highway 99, higher up on the foothills, I found winemakers who had some calling to make wine from that certain place.

One fellow, Brian Fitzpatrick, a burly fellow with a healthy girth and a Grizzly Adams beard, talked about the calling he had, from very early on, to grow his grapes organically. Brian wasn’t playing at being green because it was the trendy thing to do. Brian is not a trendy guy. But talking to him an afternoon ago, I wanted to plan a vacation to come back and stay awhile at his little B&B in Fairplay. Read all about him here.

His wines were styled for my tastes, even his unlikely Pinot Noir and Merlot. I think something happens when you decide you like a person. Their wines then become an extension of them and are ushered in by a genuine liking for the person. Brian’s wines were like that. I felt like I was talking to a college roommate.

I stayed with Brenda and Dave Akin in Lodi, the night before the competition. Dave is a walking encyclopedia of the California wine business. I haven’t talked to someone as knowledgeable of the history since Bob Pellegrini. And they were there, when the history was being carved out. Dave was talking about how his Tannat has a p.h. issue in the winemaking process. Anyone who has ever had a Tannat knows it can be a tannic pest. Dave is on a quest to calm the beast. Kudos’ to Dave, he is only one of a small handful of people who have ever heard of an ancient Central Valley dessert wine which went by the name of Kosrof Anoush.

Leon Sobon of Shenandoah Vineyards and Sobon Estate is another piece of what some day will be the beginnings of modern Sierra wine history. I heard someone remark that Leon was a hippie who moved from the Bay Area to set up his wine lab in the hills. Leon was a Senior Scientist with Lockheed Research lab. Mad scientist maybe, hippie, umm, I don’t think so. Genuinely nice person making interesting wines that reflect the place and the personality of the individuals who are re-settling this piece of the West in a carbon neutral setting.

Chaim Gur-Arieh and his wife Elisheva established an outpost for wine and art with their C.G. Di Arie Winery on the border of the Eldorado and Amador counties. Chaim and Elisheva have a great life and love story, they could have set up shop in Napa, easily. But they committed their wine working life to the Sierra foothills. One of my favorite wines was a Primitivo.

There are more stories, but these four really touched the soul of this slave to the wine god. Note that these are four mature fellows; they've had time to experience life, to decide what the like and don't like, to develop their palate sense. These are four fellows who have searched for the philosopher's stone.

Is there terroir in the wines of the Sierras? Some think not. From the little I saw, there was more composing than conducting. But this is a wine region that although it is one of the oldest wine producing areas of California, it’s really in its infancy. Like Dave Akin said, “This area is like Napa was thirty years ago. People are friendly, the wines are getting better and we’re having a great time of it.” Remembering back in my early days, driving the Falcon “family wagon” up and down Hwy 29 in the latter 1970’s, I grokked what Dave was talking about.

Is there gold in them thar hills? Is there terroir? Are there wines that reflect California and the region in a timeless and classic style found in no other place? To address those questions, Marco Capelli, winemaker for Miraflores, went into the cellar and tapped a barrel of Angelica.

Yes sir, he tapped into Old California, the West of my youth, a wine that put California on the winemaking map. Dark, deep, sunny, unctuous, god-awful sweet and sexy. And man, it was just like when I first kissed my girlfriend in the back of the movie house, when we were fourteen and so very young and in love.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


I have been reading Asimov lately. Isaac, not Eric. I just needed a hyper-jump to another head space, so I headed back to another world, far away in the future.

I am feeling overwhelmed by the direction of the wine business. California is churning out expensive wines that are loaded with wood and fruit. Bordeaux is pumping out investor-class wines for hedge-fund managers that no longer exist. Hong Kong can only take on so much. And the Italians? Well, they just want to get on the ship and into the warehouses in America.

I know this sounds like an endless lament.

I have gotten to know Darrell Corti; he has been helping me research a project I am working on about Italian farmers in America. Over a bottle or two of older California wine, the history that we are going over seems to circle back to wines that we both tasted over the years that just didn’t have the explosive and volatile flavors. OK, so that subject is best left to folks who have it zeroed-in on their scopes, Alice and company. That’s not where I'm going here. I am staring at the monster coming over the sand hill.

Like the airline industry or the film business, the wine-and-spirits business is contracting rapidly. Big is getting bigger. And bigger. And this being a bottle business, there is a critical mass to the scale of things now.

I had a meeting with a Sicilian winery export manager on Thursday. He was in between the Gambero Rosso LA and NY shows. So he took a flyover break. Here is a producer who says they make 500,000 cases of wine, looking for a distributor. In our house there are already many Sicilian producers of all sizes. Sicily is not Australia, yet. But he is a warm fellow. I feel our Sicilian bond, really feel for him. Every Sicilian wants to have his American connection. But the stock houses are full, and the huge ships lumber ever so slowly across the territory.

I don’t know what to tell him. Hell, I don’t know what to tell myself. Everywhere we look we're getting kicked in the nuts. We have too much. Of everything. Time for a diet. Time to pause. Or is it? It looks more like this is the time for hand-to-hand combat.

The small companies, are they in any better shape? They can move faster, but can they sustain anything, grow it? Only to lose it to a larger concern because they cannot grow it any more? Yes, great, unpolluted wines from the Loire and Liguria come from them, but then what?

From the deck of this ship, it doesn’t matter. The forces in play are moving, growing and aiming to swallow everything in their way. I stare into their eyes every day. And I am afraid, very afraid.

A California winemaker who still thinks their cabernet is worth $200? A producer of Amarone who is spending so much on French oak that he must charge over $100 for his wine? The rivers run red with the blood of bad decisions. A reserve bottle of Malbec from Argentina that someone is asking $75 for? A Syrah from South Africa that the importer says must sell for over $50? The Escalade generation isn’t bling enough for this.

When I get this way, I turn to Rossini. I must get back into warrior mode. I must find a way to help make our world smaller, something that we can wrap our minds and hearts around. We don’t have that much time. There are forces of destiny heading in our direction at light speed, intent on eventually swallowing all of this up.

In the meantime, we must find wines worth swallowing and people to bring them to.

"Behold, as a wild ass in the desert, go I forth to my work."

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Backed, Sacked and Cracked

I have been staring at a computer screen for two days now. With month end comes new reports. I don’t even know where to start.

All of us who aren’t gazzilionaires seem to have our backs against the wall. We’re either trying to sell something, buy something or avoid talking to salespeople. I have noticed that many folks in the wine biz have disappeared behind some firewall. They aren’t on the streets. They aren’t looking after their primary customers. Where have they gone?

They could say the same for me. With all this biz analysis and biz blogging I know only too well how much easier it is to avoid the necessary blocking and tackling these times call for.

Still, with all the running around and sending out information, going to this customer tasting here, and a private one there, what does it all add to the bottom line? Or does it just keep the bottom from sinking even lower?

Oh sure, it is a lot more fun thinking about that 1964 Barolo or the wonderful Friulano winemaker who doesn’t have electricity in his winery. Much more romantic. So poetic. It almost brings tears to my eyes, but haven’t we seen enough lately, of men crying in front of millions of screens?

I have been out in so many restaurants lately. When I think back to the best meal in the last week or two, most often it was in someone’s kitchen. Did the wine matter? A lot more than when I had to order it from an inflated wine list.

I actually saw a 2004 Castello di Meleto Chianti Classico for $14 a glass. That got me as much as the Zenato Amarone I saw last month for $168. Who’s buying these wines at those prices?

Wine directors (or the bean counters that worship at the altar of their COGs) should get sacked for treating their employers business with such reckless disregard for the customer and their dwindling reserves of cash. Or nonexistent cash. Buy a bottle of wine for $20 and charge $35 and sell a ton. Buy a Brunello for $40 and sell it for $65 and make new friends. You have to have that $70 bottle of Barolo? How about selling it, not for $210, but for $95? You might sell two bottles. And $50 to take to the bank is a whole lot better than the big goose egg.

Oh yeah, we still have the hilly vineyards and the romance of the gentrified farmer. Or if you prefer, the Leed certified winery that farms organic and fines with fertile egg whites in a gravity fed facility. All neat and shiny.

I was thinking about a meal in Italy. My perfect meal is not to sit at some fine table with a multitude of small plates parading across the starched linen, hour after grueling hour, with wine after wine and the sorest backside, only to be finished with a 40 minute drive to fall into a bed. We would call that Vinitaly, and it will be here in a month. No, my dream is a little table, even a bench and a carafe of local wine. No menu, only what the ladies in the back have found at the market earlier in the day. Pasta, some vegetables, maybe a protein. Not salmon, not in Italy. Or garlic roasted shrimp. Not even in Tuscany. No, I’d prefer something like what I found last year above the hills of Trento. Just a little eight table affair, with a warm room and whatever the cook had prepared.

So we complain about the economy, but no ones losing any weight. Maybe things need to get worse before we get better?

While we wait for a better computer with more memory that runs faster, maybe it’s time to move from the desk to the epicenter of the industry. To the restaurant, for the Italian wine, to confront the scared restaurateur and try to get him or her to make the necessary adjustments to bring people back into eat from their kitchens. It’s not too late, but it’s pretty damn close. And it would be a good place to start.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

American Squirrel Wine Blog Award Winners Announced

One of our favorite non-wine blogs, the Las Flores View Point Squirrel Colony, is proud to announce the winners of the first-ever American Squirrel Wine Blog Awards. It seems the Critter-Critic has taken it on himself to break from the pack and Award some very deserving blogs for their service to the community and the blogosphere in general. Seeing as it is the end of a very busy week and we have too much to do, we will ask that you focus your attention on the Los Flores Blog to read more about these most important Wine Blog Awards.

- Starsky and Hutch

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