Thursday, September 3, 2009

Grape expectations

I will be spending the holiday weekend in Napa and Sonoma, California, enjoying the harvest season as only a non-drinker can. (I was going to the Bay Area anyway.) Of course, there are also the rolling hills of grapevine plants, excellent restaurants and natural hot springs to recommend wine country. It's a very relaxing place to, in the words of David Foster Wallace, get away from already being pretty much away from it all.

Still, you don't even have to leave Cook County, Illinois much less pay a $15 airline fee to check one standard-size bag as I just did (don't get me started) to enjoy all things vino in a festive atmosphere. Not this weekend but next, the Windy City Wine Festival takes place downtown all day Friday and Saturday. Wine tastings, gourmet food, chef and sommelier lectures, beer garden, live music. Unlike me, they don't spell "wine festival" with an H after the W. My Flavorpill preview is here.

This all brings to mind Dana Goodyear's entertaining New Yorker article from a few months ago about wine industry maverick Fred Franzia. He's the controversial vintner family scion who sells oceans of wine as "Napa" product, which it often is in only the most technical sense. Franzia also pioneered the "super-value" category, most notably via $1.99 bottles of the Trader Joe's house brand, Charles Shaw, nicknamed "Two Buck Chuck." An abstract of the article appears here but you have to be a New Yorker subscriber to read it in its entirety. If you want to read it and are friends with a subscriber, perhaps they'll email you a copy.

OK, enough about wine. Tomorrow: women and song.

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