Category Archives: Year

What We’ve Been Reading

I’ll Drink to That: Beaujolais and the French Peasant Who Made It the World’s Most Popular Wine

A breezy read about how one young man through dint of determination and hard work, transformed the wines of Beaujolais from a relatively unknown regional wine to world-wide popularity. Young George Duboeuf, on his family winery at Chaintre decided by 1951 to circumvent the big dealers and set up his own wine-tasting cellar. Armed with two of his own bottles, he pedaled over to Paul Blanc’s famous restaurant Le Chapon Fin down the road. History was made. Duboeuf Wines is the #1 exporter of French wines to the U.S. Author Chelminski’s retelling of the events, the people and the wine-making world is well worth the read. Mr. Duboeuf passed away January 6, 2020.

Meanwhile… New Seasons Market here in Portland has on display not one, not two but three examples of Beaujolais Nouveau, including one from Mr. Deboeuf himself. From the 2019 vintage, this is perhaps the very last wine the man himself may have had a hand in. You’ll notice that the label sports the colorful floral design that George introduced so many years ago. I will get the posse together, we’ll open these and report back on what we find. Stay tuned!


Oddly enough, at the same time as I was reading I’ll Drink To That, I was also reading Life In A Medieval City, which I had pulled from my housemate’s copiously filled bookshelves. It addresses what life was like in Troyes and much of Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries. Like the book above, this volume often mentions Lyon and surrounding areas in modern France, and we were just there!

From the book. Getting the public to taste the wine, as we know, is still an important part of the business.

In addition, there is the wine crier, who is also an inspector. Each morning he goes into the first tavern he can find that has not yet accepted a crier for the day; the tavern keeper must accept him. He oversees the drawing of the wine, or draws it himself, and tastes. Then, furnished with a cup and a leather flagon stoppered with a bit of hemp, he goes out to cry the wine and offer samples of it to the public.

Cork Dork

Cork Dork is the story of the author’s journey from technology industry journalist to professional sommelier. Driven by an unstoppable desire to understand the mysterious and obsessive world of those who build their lives around wine, this work never fails to deliver. Not simply a story about personalities, the author chases world-wide research into sensory perception on the high end, and the vast marketplace of add-ins for doctoring your wine at the low end. In between the author retells all the humorous mistakes she made while learning how to properly deliver service. A very rewarding read, or if you’re me, an audio book narrated by the author.

Billionaires Vinegar: The Mystery of the Worlds Most Expensive Bottle of Wine

Would you throw down $156,000 for a single bottle of wine? What if it was a 1787 bottle of Château Lafite Bordeaux that you have good reason to believe belonged to Thomas Jefferson? This book tells the story of the strange world of extremely aged wines and the grey land between the real thing and a quiet underground of fakes. In the end – are they any good? Are they worth the money? Are they even real?
You decide.

2019 Harvest at Boedecker Cellars

It’s that time of year. I joined the merry crew at Boedecker Cellars for the 2019 Harvest. Here we are in a rare moment of repose.

Photo by Athena Pappas

The grapes arrive.

Athena on the sorting line.

A perfect cluster!

Tim shows us his Punchdown Face.

Here’s your friendly author in action.

See all those on the deck? I cleaned each and every one of them.

Boedecker Cellars is located right here in NW Portland. Drop in sometime and say “hi”. Athena and Stewart make great wine!


I’ve stolen the text of this post from Kristian Berg.

From a single malt scotch tasting party some years ago. Comments from the assembled tasters.

Oban 14 year… “Dear Oban, I know what you look like- Catherine
Zeta-Jones, still single, living in the Western Highlands- offering me a kiss that is your taste!” 

Macallan 12 year… “A naked afternoon in front of a cozy fire” 

Glenkinchie 10 year… “Porch-swingin’ linger with a neighbor- ‘hey! howdya like a scotch? I’ve got Glenkinchie’ ‘Say what? ‘Glenkinchie…’ So we wrapped up around 10pm and I forgot I had any problems… my neighbor? He said he couldn’t feel his toes…” 

Isle of Jura… “Someone just pushed me down the hill- rolling blur of sun and field flowers” “More fruity – earthy as single malts go with a bit of a circle burn on the
after-swallow (if that’s even a word)” 

Dalwhinnie 15 year… “The whip strikes and stings so sweetly” “Stable – like a pleasant ride in a mid-grade BMW” 

Glenfiddich… “Screw the rocksalt, it’s glenfiddich and lock de-icer in my vehicle this winter!” 

Laphroig 10 year… this is a peaty smokey Islay scotch… “The underside of Gandalf’s green wellies comes to mind and to tongue”!

Beaune, France

Beaune, in the Burgundy region of France.  We only had a couple of hours here, so I’m afraid we have little in the way of Deep Thoughts and Insights into the wines you’ve heard so much about since before you were born.

Beaune –  Sadly, half of the media images I have in my head of France are from media related to WWII and walking these streets I kept expecting to see Ernest Borgnine storming around the corner with a tommy gun.  It’s hard to not expect to see half-tracks, tanks and men in soiled, saggy khaki uniforms around every turn.


On this experience we were on a tour of France in general, and not a wine tour of France.  In a more perfect world we would have enjoyed more time to learn more about the similarities/differences between Burgundy and our home here in the Willamette Valley –

One story we can share with you is that morning the sky was hazy in Lyon and the surrounding areas.  Why?  Well, it turns out that when the nights are cold and clear in the spring, the local producers burn hay bales in the vineyards.  We were told that the cold nights can produce a thin layer of ice on the plants, which is not a problem by itself, but can act as a lens focusing the morning sun and scorching the vines.  We’re told a whole harvest can be lost.  So they burn hay to fill the sky with smoke, not to keep the vineyards warm, but to blunt the power of the sunlight.  So now you know.

We did manage a brief wine tasting in Beaune but possibly did not pass the wine connoisseur test we were subjected to by the proprietor.  I think he could tell we didn’t have any real money to spend. But it was fun nonetheless.

We didn’t have enough time in town to explore it, but they do have a nifty display of historic wine making equipment.  The size of the wine presses is quite impressive.

Speaking of the connection between the Willamette Valley and Burgundy, what do we find here?  One of the French families who identified the viticulture opportunity in Oregon, and contributed to making our local wine industry happen! Visit them when you’re in the area.

Domaine Drouhin

Yes, this first week in France was part of a two week trip to the land of cheese, bread and wine.  You can read more here:

Here’s the boat we were on:


Famille Perrin, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France

Just when you thought it was safe to open this blog, you discover we spent two weeks in France. For more on our 2019 travels in Gaul, click your clicker right here:

Our second wine visit on this day was less interesting to us as we weren’t there to buy wine to take home. This visit was more like dropping into a wine shop with friends, which we can do back in the USA. However, we enjoyed their wines more than the previous place.

The Famille Perrin tasting room is in the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which is a tiny place and as a result I’m foreshadowing something to come.

See that box on the counter? It’s got the best winery snack we’ve had so far. BONUS POINTS!

The family crest.

This is where we lost the bus. Or the bus lost us.

We hiked down the hill past the school….

… and here you see us troop off into the distance. Eventually we were forced to join the French Foreign Legion and serve in North Africa.

Well, eventually we made a few calls, and sent a couple scouting parties which made contact with our transportation. Then came the next problem. This ain’t the suburbs baby. Ya can’t just drive your giant heavy bus down any old street, leaving our party stranded.

Well, some members of our party aren’t as spry as they used to be. We got it all figured out. Advice: don’t leave the bus without the bus driver’s phone number.

As an aside, Famille Perrin’s entry level red is right there on the end-cap at our Portland New Seasons market.

Pope Hat

Frequent visitors know by now we spent two weeks in France. For more on our 2019 travels in Gaul, click your clicker on here:

Some of the Portland people in our group organized a side-trip to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Here we are on a bus we eventually lost.

Maison Bouachon, our first stop.

Here is an example of how their vines grow. Note this is not an exaggeration, the soil is quite rocky.

Here is a chart of the grape varietals grown in the area.

I love these giant casks they use to age the wine.

Some of the members of our group did not enjoy the wines here, finding them overly oxidized. What would you think? Only one way to know for sure, go check it out for yourself.

They did put on a good show here. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for giant wooden casks.

Here’s a clever wine tool set that’s also a game of chess.

And here we see a typical vineyard. The rocks are believed to retain the heat of the day and radiate it back to the vines at night. Another goal for the way they are trained is to allow the local “mistral” winds to keep the vines dry.

The ruin on top of the hill contains an ancient lich and his legions of skeletons. Your party will want magic users, clerics… ok, just kidding. We are told this was the Pope’s summer cabin.

Vineyard Tour, Tain L’Hermitage, France

As it so happens, when you weren’t looking, we snuck into France. For more on our 2019 travels in Gaul, put your clicker on here:

A day in Tournon-sur-Rhône. We went on a walking tour to the vineyards of Tain L’Hermitage.

They often trim the vines close to the ground where it’s warmer.

In other areas they train the vines up individual posts instead of a trellis.

As you can see, the hill is quite steep.

Very rocky soil.

…and a stop at the chocolate factory! Valrhona, it’s called. Which we unknowingly will use later in our journey in Paris to make chocolate lava cakes in our cooking class.

Cider Melenig

So we are in Paris at a crepe place and they offer us cider and they bring out this from Cidrerie Melenig:

It is quite delightful. Dry, floral and a wee bit tart. The cider nerds I know would describe its character on the “funky” barnyard side vs. clean and simple.

Anyhoo – get some today!

Rhum Belami from Vietnam

Rhum Belami: The First Premium Rhum Made In Vietnam

I recently returned for a business trip to Ho Chi Mihn City and I was lucky enough to bring one of these back with me. You might not know this, but Vietnam grows excellent sugar, and from sugar comes rum / rhum. Quite possibly, this is the only bottle of Rhum Belami in the entire United States at this moment! I suspect this will change before long.

And what a story! Here’s a photo of Roddy Battajon, distiller and founder of the company who generously hand-delivered my bottle to our offices. Read his story by clicking here.

I grew up watching my grandmother make rhum.

This amber colored rhum has a very strong aroma of mango and papaya, amazing!  I was advised by the distiller that it’s perfect as it is over ice and I’d have to agree.  The fruit aroma follows with a strong fruit flavor.  In fact, the flavor is almost strong enough to be a liqueur.

Are his rhum products good? Well, don’t take my word for it:

Nobody’s itching for a stiff glass of snake wine at the end of a long day

At the moment you’ll need to travel to Vietnam to add this to your collection. In the meantime, I suggest you connect with Roddy and his team here on facebook:

  • Legacy Edition: this a fruity and spicy rhum that is perfect for many occasions such as enjoying a drink with friends in a bar.
  • Premium Rhum: made of organic coconut, Kopi Luwak coffee beans, roasted chocolate, Bandé wood and other, its sweetness will perfectly fit with a dessert (I advise to drink it with a red fruits dessert)
  • White Rhum: this rhum is still in process but I want it to herbs twisted: lemongrass, basilica for instance.


Remember, you heard it here first!