Wine is a subject that has held a special fascination for me for well over fifty years. In fact, I used to write a wine column for Abel Magazine and Park West back in the late 60s and early 70s. That made me a kind of pioneer as writing about wine wasn’t widespread in those days (when the only useful reference written by an American was Frank Schoonmaker’s Encyclopedia of Wine, published in 1964; Hugh Johnson’s first book on the subject, Wine, came out in 1966; then, in 1970 Time-Life published one of the first mass-market books on the subject, Wine and Spirits, by Alec Waugh, as part its Food of the World Series). The first winery that I wrote about was Pleasant Valley Wine Company, in Hammondsport–in what would become the Finger Lakes AVA–back in 1971. I received this letter from the winery after my piece was published in Abel Magazine:
Unfortunately, I had to drop my column after a few years to pursue an M.A. in Art History (fine art is another passion) and make a living, first by teaching history and art history at the Lenox School in Manhattan and later working at Sotheby’s, the art auction house. Now, over 40 years later, with a WSET Diploma in Wine and Spirits–a strong professional credential (and as difficult to earn as, say, an MS in Biology, though it is much more agreeable to work with wine as one must taste it, think about it, and drink and enjoy it, preferably with fellow oenophiles). I’ve now returned to writing about the grape and its astonishing and delightful product with a bit more knowledge and understanding than I had when I first wrote about it so many years ago.
One focus of my posts is the wines of New York State and its five major wine regions. There are a number of really outstanding wines being made, especially in Long Island and the Finger Lakes. I will also write about Ontario, which also produces fine table wine as well as world-class ice wine. I’ll also explore other wines of the Northeast as well as other East Coast regions, such as New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia, which I believe ought to be better known. From this you may conclude that I belong to the Drink-Local-Wine movement and you’d be right. I also believe that of course you should drink whatever strikes your fancy, wherever it’s from, that is affordable and good value. However, I’d add one caveat–the wine should be an honest one, true to its variety and its place of origin (terroir).
This blog is not updated daily–indeed, new posts shall be published on an irregular schedule for a while, until I have the time to devote myself to it fully. In addition, I will update posts as new information becomes available and is pertinent to a post. If the new material is significant, I shall republish the post with a new date. In fact, I hope that my blog shall be deemed a reference, useful to academics, people in the wine trade, and serious wine aficionados.
I am, as of January 2019, preparing to publish a new, revised and updated edition of The Wines of Long Island, originally written by Philip Palmedo and Edward Beltrami. The 2nd edition came out in 2000. The new edition is meant to be complete and comprehensive–the reference volume for the wines of that region. It is hoped to be published and available by mid-summer.
My approach — be advised — tends to the academic, but I feel that this is an approach that is not widely available on the wine blognet. I hope that you will find it readable, informative, interesting, useful, and thought-provoking.
With respect to the image of the in the header of this page, here is the complete picture:
Painted by the great Velázquez early in his career, this depiction of ordinary drunkards worshipping Bacchus is ironic and witty, as well as brilliantly painted. Only the dipsomaniac with the bowl of wine looks out directly from the canvas, catching the viewer’s eye. Bacchus (or a youth dressed to look like him) casts a sidelong glance at a half-naked figure that is probably meant to be a satyr holding a wineglass partly hidden behind the god’s crown wreath. Are they somehow in cahoots? Note the grapevine in the upper-left corner, the wine-barrel on which the god sits, the empty carafe and a wine jug. A repoussoir figure in the left foreground already bears his own crown wreath. Are each of the men to be crowned by the god?
It seems that it may be an inside joke, painted for the king, Philip IV, who paid Velázquez 100 ducats for it and had it hang in his palace.
Below are other depictions of Bacchus or Dionysos that have been used to grace this page:
Another header, more ironic and beguiling, depicts a Roman youth dressed up as Bacchus:
A particularly witty image that I used as a header was much earlier than any of the others:
Attic Black-figure kylix or wine cup depicting Bacchus (here he is Dionysos, given that this is a Greek work) in a ship. He had boarded the vessel disguised as a human. At night, the crew tried to rob him, at which point the god revealed himself in his true form, metamorphosed the crew members as dolphins, and caused the mast to become a grapevine. Done by the greatest of all black-figure vase painters, Exekias, ca. 530 BCE. The wit, by the way, is only discovered if the kylix actually contained red wine. The drinker was meant to hold the kylix with his thumb protruding from the lower handle, with his lips immediately to the left of the handle. As the wine was drained from the bowl there would be a point at which the boat would actually appear to be floating in a “wine-dark sea,” as Homer put it.
So let us join Bacchus in any of his many guises and pour some good wine, clink our glasses together, and repeat the proverbial Spanish toast, “Salud, pesetas, amor, y tiempo para gozarlos.”*
Now, on to the posts.
*”Health, wealth, love, and the time to enjoy them.”
[This was originally published on 2 May 2010]