Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Review: Vertical and an Interview with the Author Rex Pickett

A book review followed by a conversation with the author. 
This month I read the book, "Vertical: A Novel" by Rex Pickett, author of "Sideways: A Novel.

Rex Pickett. 
Rex Pickett wrote the book "Sideways" which was adapted into the award winning movie of the same name, "Sideways." Yes, that movie about wine. Most of us know "Sideways" as the movie and not the book. Of course I own a copy of the movie. Many of us in the wine business also know that the movie increased sales of Pinot Noir, while depressing sales of Merlot. It is the most influential movie about wine in history and had a perceptible influence on American wine culture. Sideways [Blu-ray].

One of the pleasures of co-hosting #WineMuse World Wine Tour is working with an amazing host, Linda Rez. Linda regularly interviews musicians, artists and authors on her Minstrel and Muse Audio Art Magazine. She kindly invited me to join her in an interview with Rex Pickett. This is now a featured episode of the #WineMuse podcast on Minstrel and Muse Audio Art Magazine. When I learned that we were going to interview Mr. Pickett, I decided I should read Vertical his sequel to Sideways before the interview. In my preparation for the interview I learned that the third book in this trilogy was soon to be published, "Sideways 3 Chile."

I use the term "interview" loosely as Linda and Rex Pickett quickly established a wonderful rapport and did not need me interrupting. In fact, I was a silent audience of one. If I've learned anything about interviewing, it's when to keep my mouth shut. Before I share more about the interview with Rex Pickett, I'd like to share some thoughts about his book "Vertical: A Novel" by Rex Pickett.

Book Review "Vertical"

First, I don't expect to see a movie sequel to "Sideways" ever. Rex Pickett does not own the movie rights to the characters in "Sideways" and he said that the producer lacks interest in doing a sequel. I have some thoughts on that below.

Second, I liked "Vertical" after I read the entire book. What I appreciated and also had difficulty with, was the first person style of writing. The main character Miles is based on Rex Pickett. He wrote Miles as a reflection of himself.

If you've seen the movie "Sideways", you should know that in the book "Vertical" our familiar character Miles is the successful author of a book which was adapted into a hit movie about wine! The characters in the movie we all saw are mentioned in "Vertical" as the characters in the movie. In other words, Miles is Rex Pickett, not Paul Giamatti. That messed with my head while reading the book. My mental image of Miles flipped back and forth between the actor Paul Giamatti and the author Rex Pickett. Half the time I saw and heard Paul and the other half Rex.
Rex Pickett.

I should share that I saw Mr. Pickett in 2012 at the Portland, Oregon Wine Bloggers Conference. He was one of the featured speakers and a highlight of the event. So I knew what he looked like and sounded like. At some point while reading, I replaced the image of Paul with Rex in my in head.

As expected the book began with a focus on wine. But with a great deal of hedonism. Miles was reveling in his celebrity and also overwhelmed by his new fame. Wine, women and Miles neuroses featured prominently in the first half of the book. I've witnessed similar bacchanal behavior in wine country. It struck at times, too close. Honestly, the first third of the book was difficult for me to read as I recognized some of the less savory scenarios.

The middle of the book detailed the inevitable collapse of Miles crazy scheme. The last third of the book dealt or tried to deal with Miles and his mother. Can Miles survive the journey? Will his mother?

I was surprised by "Vertical." At the end, I found myself blinking away tears. I did not expect that reaction from this book. Laughter, shock, embarrassment and tears. It is all there in "Vertical." It also left me wanting to read the third book to discover what happens next.

Sideways 3 Chile

Yes, book three in the Sideways Trilogy "Sideways 3 Chile" is to be released this fall. In about a month of this posting. During our interview, Rex shared that the third book will be released initially as an e-book. For a very reasonable price. He discussed why the book is based in Chile and impressions on the country. I look forward to reading the third book in this trilogy about Miles. He's grown on me.

*Note: Rex also talked about his successful play "Sideways" adapted for the stage. The play is not the same as the movie. Think dialogue and 18 set changes. If you want to see the stage version of "Sideways" you will have to travel to London. Book your tickets now.

Rex Pickett Interview

On a personal note, I was impressed with how freely Mr. Pickett shared information. He never hesitated to discuss his experiences about writing, publishing, film-making and fighting to achieve personal goals. And a fight it was. The entertainment and publishing industry has changed and continues to evolve. I encourage you to listen to our interview with Rex. His comments overlapped many of my own personal views on social media, technology and culture change. And read his books. If you are like me, enjoy a good glass of wine while reading.

Sideways the movie, which was based on that book, was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay; it also won over 350 awards from critics.  In 2011 Mr. Pickett published Vertical which continues the story of Miles and Jack as they embark on a roadtrip with Miles' mom, her nurse, and her dog through wine country and middle America. Vertical explores Miles' relationship with his mother and his coming to grips with her impending death.

Rex recently adapted his novel Sideways for the stage. It sold out to audiences for six months when it was performed at the Ruskin Group Theater, and it then went on to break all attendance records at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, where it was directed by Des McAnuff.  The play is now heading to London's West End.  He has a new book in the trilogy coming this fall, Sideways 3 Chile, you won't want to miss, which follows Miles' life and wine adventures in Chile.  

Thoughts about Vertical the Movie?

No one knows if a sequel to the movie "Sideways" will ever be made. In my mind it should. It should not give up any of the excellence shown by the original movie. As per the book "Vertical" the movie would feature different actors in the roles of Miles and Jack. That's how it's written. If I were making the movie version, I'm not shy to advise, I would film the first third in glorious color, then gradually fade out the color in the middle third as Miles realizes his plan is failing. The last third of the movie would be in searing black and white. Visualize the movie "Nebraska." Gradually color would reappear at the very end of the movie. I would go to the theaters to watch this movie. Read the book to understand what I mean. "Vertical: A Novel" by Rex Pickett, author of "Sideways: A Novel.


WineMuse Review: 2012 Biohof Pratsch Grüner Veltliner Rotenpullen Organic, Austria

Grüner Veltliner is Austrian Wine 

This was the featured wine of the August 2014 #WineMuse podcast on Minstrel and Muse Audio Art Magazine. We tasted this wine live on the show. You can listen to our podcast and taste along as we discover the beauty of Austrian Grüner Veltliner.

The outstanding passion and innovative ideas of today’s young owner Stefan Pratsch are supported by his parents Wilhelm and Anneliese. Stefan decided at the age of 14 to make wine. His parents readily supported him and invested in this new family venture. Today the family winery is producing about 30,000 cases of wine.

Tasting Notes:

Color: Straw to pale gold.
Nose: Nutty, melon.
Palate: Some effervescence, crisp, lively, peach emphasized with food. Broader as it warmed with savory peach, nutty, with a lovely spike of acid and effervescence on the tongue. Some white pepper
At 25 minutes: Interesting nose. Like. Honey, nutty, peppery, creamy peach. Focused front palate, crisp/creamy nectarine, tingly.
At 40 minutes: Peach/honeydew melon, a hint of funk with herbal minerality.

Thoughts: Enjoyable food worthy wine. Classic pairing is Wiener Schnitzel (Viennese schnitzel). A little bit of fat to balance the acidity, like salmon, Thai food with spice and fat. Pizza and seafood perfect. Also pairs well with foods that are usually difficult to with wine, like asparagus and artichoke. Recommended.

Closure: Screw cap
ABV: 12%
SRP: $20
Made by: Biohof Pratsch
Country: Austria
Region: Niederösterreich
This wine was provided by Wine Sellers Ltd.

Biohof Pratsch is a relatively small, 13.5 hectare estate comprised of 13 single vineyards in the Niederosterreich region (Lower Austria) all maintained under organic certification for over 10 years by the Pratsch family, Wilhelm and Anneliese and their son, Stefan. Organic wine growing to them is more than just the elimination of pesticides, fungicides and artificial fertilizers, but rather part of a larger, holistic philosophy of dedication to the land and the quality of the wines.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Celebrating #CabernetDay on Red Mountain with Fidelitas and Col Solare

Today is the 5th Annual #CabernetDay. 

This is the day wine aficionados around the world buy, drink and tweet about that most famous of red wines, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Today I visited two wineries on Red Mountain, Fidelitas and Col Solare.

Last night I was tweeting after #winechat and saw tweets from @FidelitasWines about a special Cabernet Sauvignon tasting at their Red Mountain tasting room. All that was required to receive a taste of a "special" bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, was to tweet about @FidelitasWines and #CabernetDay and be retweeted. Which I did and was, so today I zipped over to the winery to enjoy some world class Cabernet Sauvignon. Yes I am truly lucky.

Fidelitas Winery - view from Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard.

Plenty of clouds and gentle breezes took the edge off the heat today. Welcoming the beautiful day on Red Mountain was a treat. I asked for permission to wander their Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard to take photos. Always ask friends. Of course I was in for a special and delicious red wine tasting. Winemaker Charlie Hoppes does a spectacular job.

The following wines were sampled at the winery. Including the "special" red wine only available if  you tweeted and were retweeted. I brought my phone to show them.

Chelsea poured fantastic Fidelitas red wines.

Fidelitas Wines I Tasted:

2012 Fidelitas 4040 Red Blend
54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc 5% Petit Verdot: Lovely wine, just opened and showed well.

2011 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
100% Cabernet Sauvignon: Wine Club members only release. Juicy dry, big finish.

2010 Champoux Cabernet Sauvignon
100% Cabernet Sauvignon: Pretty, lot going on in this one. Just opened and tight.

2010 Ciel Du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot: Focused to the finish, very dry.

A special Cabernet Sauvignon for social media mavens.
2009 Block One
100% Champoux Cabernet Sauvignon: Just opened, tight and dry, will be awesome in the evening. You can only taste this wine if you tweet @FidelitasWines and #CabernetDay and then are retweeted.

* Fidelitas Wine Club Shipments will go out at the end of September. Still room for new members. They get the best stuff from Fidelitas and is worth considering if you love amazing wines.

Winemaker Charlie Hoppes has spent the past 20 + years as a leading winemaker for several noted Washington wineries. He was Assistant Winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, then Head Red Winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle's facility at Paterson, where he helped create the premium label for Col Solare's first two vintages. In 1999 Charlie worked to help start Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla. He created his own label Fidelitas wines in 2000. He my friends, makes wonderful wine.

Fidelitas Tasting Room
Fidelitas on Red Mountain is open 11am to 5pm.
51810 N. Sunset Road, Benton City, WA 99320

The grand steps leading up to the Col Solare tasting room.

Col Solare Visit

I'm a fan of Col Solare winery. They are a Red Mountain winery located only 15 minutes from my home in eastern Washington. Col Solare is a collaboration between Tuscany’s Marchesi Antinori family and Chateau Ste Michelle. They produce only ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon based wines. Very cool project. And appropriate to visit on #CabernetDay.

Col Solare vineyard grows right up to the entry of the winery.
Col Solare’s Estate Vineyard was designed and planted according to specifications that Marchesi Antinori uses in its own estate vineyards in Tuscany and Umbria. The orientation, spacing and density were matched with the site to ensure uniform ripening and fruit quality. The view is spectacular too.

The tasting room wine bar is a pleasure to visit and sample amazing red wines.
My visit was unplanned, but the hostesses were inviting and accommodating. I dawdled recounting tales from wine country. It was a fun visit catching up and sharing. The wines were fabulous! You can tell because I did not bother to take any tasting notes. Yep, that good.

2009 Col Solare Red Wine - Cabernet Sauvignon dominant. Love that color.
With the winery at its apex, the vineyard was planted in a radial pattern, like the sun’s rays, which follows the natural contours of the site. Bordeaux varieties and Syrah were sited on the vineyard according to their sensitivity to prevailing wind patterns, and the solar and shade angles during the day. You can see this radial pattern reflected on the label of the Col Solare Component Collection 2009 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wine of the day - 2009 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon Component Collection. Spoil yourself.

Col Solare Winery
Visitors are welcome in small groups, by appointment only.

Col Solare Winery
50207 Antinori Road
Benton City, WA, USA 99320
phone: 509-588-6806

Now it's your turn. Get out there and try some Cabernet Sauvignon today and any day.


Friday, August 22, 2014

A Week Of Wine - Catching Up

Summary of this week of wine -  

I'm short on time to adequately write about everything going on this week. A quick post outlining my week of wine seems to be the optimal option today. Where to start? How about reverse order?

Saturday August 23, 2014 - Tossed my Frampton CD. Later dude.

Friday August 22, 2014 - Doors Closing

Doors closing today!

Sadly, today marks the closing of the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman Wine Shoppe. Owner Catie McIntyre is closing out all wine inventory by end of business today. Everything is on sale, beer, wine and furniture. The good news is that Catie is returning to writing and will have a book published this year! I wish Catie luck and look forward to sharing a glass of wine, or two, soon. All the best Catie!

Thursday August 21, 2014 - #winemuse Podcast

Austrian Gruner Veltliner.

#winemuse World Tour podcast show - Thursday we recorded the wine podcast show on Austria, featuring the 2012 Biohof Pratsch Grüner Veltliner Rotenpullen Organic wine. If you missed the live show, Linda and I will have the polished podcast posted soon. We enjoyed this Austrian Gruner, a lot, and interviewed a representative of the winery, Jan Kux as well as a Washington winemaker, James Mantone of Syncline Wine Cellars. I will also post my tasting notes for this wine.

Wednesday August 20, 2014 - An Afternoon in Walla Walla, Washington 

Skylite Cellars.

My first stop was at Skylite Cellars. It was a wonderful, interesting and engaging tasting. They have a new winemaker, new to me at least, and have plans for some interesting changes. It was a fun visit. More soon.

Catie McIntyre.

My second stop was at Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman Wine Shoppe. I knew Catie had the shoppe for sale, but did not know that doors were closing this Friday. Our conversation was interesting, though bitter-sweet. I always sent my friends to her store who were visiting Walla Walla. She's a wealth of information on the history of Walla Walla and especially, Walla Walla wine. Oh yeah, she has a book on Walla Walla being published this year. I will notify you when it is available.

Adamant Cellars.

Third stop was at Adamant Cellars out near the Walla Walla airport. I was surprised that my last visit with them was in May 2010, far too long. They used to be out at the Wine Incubators but now have their own facility. I'll have more about them soon.

Patit Creek Cellars.

My fourth and final stop was at Patit Creek Cellars. This was my first visit to Patit Creek. The wines of  course were lovely, well, all the Walla Walla wines I sampled on Wednesday were lovely. I was also treated to a special cheese tasting by their Spokane cheese monger. More on that later. An unusual and interesting visit.

Tuesday August 19, 2014 - #winestudio Tasting

Brotherhood Sparkling Chardonnay, NY.

If it's Tuesday, it must be time for #winestudio. Hopping on twitter at 6pm I engaged with friends on a virtual wine tasting of the Brotherhood Sparkling Chardonnay. The tweets were virtual, the wine was not. We enjoyed tasting a sparkling wine from the Hudson Valley wine region of New York. This was my first Hudson Valley sparkling wine, made by the oldest winery in the United States. I will have more about this wine tasting soon. See, I have much to catch up with when time permits.

Monday August 18, 2014 - Tasting and Note Taking

Summer is perfect for sparkling wine.

I am tasting through some lovely sparkling wines: Cremant d'Alsace, Prosecco and Cava. Look forward to photos and tasting notes on these wines. They are so very good and suitable to many palates and occasions. Fun.

Napa Valley Chardonnay.

Also, Linda and I are working on a special #winemuse podcast show featuring Chardonnay! We have recorded lively conversations with California and Washington Winemakers. We are also tasting through some lovely Napa Chardonnays! I will let you know when we have the final show posted for you to listen to. I will also write my tasting notes for the wines featured in the show.

Rex Pickett.

Lastly, I am reading the book, "Vertical: A Novel" by Rex Pickett, author of "Sideways: A Novel" Yes, I will have more to share with you about this book and author.

I encourage to have a happy, safe weekend. Remember to support your local wineries and to seek out local producers when you are traveling. All the best.