As the three people who read my blog already know, I was a finalist for best new wine blog. Even though I did not win(the better blog did: Swirl, Smell, Slurp), the experience exposed me to some new and in some cases impressive people.
Steve Paulo is such a person. Steve writes Notes From The Cellar amongst other blogs. He has a cool white guy beard, was jumped into the Bloods and the Crips on the same day, and invented Twizzlers. With his awesome white guy beard and can recite verse for verse almost half of the Full House episodes he has ever watched.
Because he is a nice guy, because he is a solid writer and handy with wine descriptors, because he was also a finalist for best new wine blog, and because I just like him, Steve is ALP’s featured wine blogger this week.
I’ve been drinking wine for a lot of years. I started early. However, I pretty much drank cheap wine, with no real discretion, into my mid-20s. At 25, at Valentine’s Day dinner with my then girlfriend (who is now my wife), at the Disneyland Hotel’s Granville Steakhouse, in an attempt to impress her, I ordered an expensive-for-me bottle of Carneros pinot noir (it was a 2002 Saintsbury). I really liked it. Since then, I’ve had much better stuff, but at the time it was the spark I needed (and different enough from my mainstay at the time, Ravenswood merlot) to get truly interested in wine. It went from being the drink that gave me the most pleasant drunkenness to this wide open world. I haven’t been the same since.
Do you have a favorite wine memory?
Yeah, the second time I met Hardy Wallace (of Dirty South Wine and The NPA, formerly of Murphy-Goode), my wife and I had been spending the day in Dry Creek Valley up in Sonoma, and we let Hardy know we’d be stopping by Michel-Schlumberger Wine Estate, where the lucky bastard lives. We hung out and chatted a bunch, and then Hardy asked if we wanted to see the lake. We grabbed a bottle of pinot blanc and a few glasses, and the three of us hiked a short distance up a hill, in between vines, to a small hilltop overlooking a lake on one side, and Dry Creek Valley on the other. Hardy pointed out Mt. St. Helena and Geyser Peak, and we just talked and drank wine, the three of us. On the ride home to the East Bay afterwards, my wife remarked, “You realize this is our life?” It was pretty rad.
Why start a blog?
Is there a part of writing Notes From The Cellar you most enjoy?
I think the big thing for me is that writing a blog that is primarily about wine reviews has pushed me to try different wine. There are 53 different varieties of vitis vinifera represented by the 100+ wines I have reviewed since October. I’ve reviewed wine from all over California, from Washington, Italy, Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Chile, Australia, and Israel. So many of these wines I would never have come across if I was not trying to compile tasting notes that would end up becoming reviews on the blog. My current favorite wine, Brunello di Montalcino, is probably not something I would have had without seeking out new tastes from different places.
I dunno, “f*** off”? Seriously, I think there is room for plenty of us. Like in all things, there are varying degrees of quality in wine blogs that primarily or exclusively feature wine reviews. If you don’t like reading them, don’t. I love writing them. I have a small following, but I think a pretty rabid one. I plan on diversifying my portfolio of blogs soon, and Notes From The Cellar will be focusing even more exclusively on reviews, while a new project will end up being where a lot of my “other” ideas go, like Pairing Wine With 1980s Action TV Shows. I digress, but basically, I think that “complaining” about there being too many or too few of a certain kind of blog is silly. If you think there are too many, ignore them; if you think there are too few, write one.
What’s the wine scene like in the East Bay for younger people like us?
Well, there is the Livermore Valley winery corridor along Tesla Road in Livermore. Great places to do cheap tastings, including Concannon, Steven Kent, Wente, Tamas Estates, Livermore Valley Cellars, lots of others. Even better, Walnut Creek and Danville have seen a spike in the number of wine bars in town, as Residual Sugar recently opened up in WC, joining Artisan and Va de Vi, and in Danville the venerable The Vine at Bridges has been joined by newcomer Stomp. So there’s lots of wine bars around. The ones in WC tend to be better for the younger crowd. Walnut Creek is significantly hipper than its more expensive, more exclusive suburban neighbor to the south.
Who excites you in California wine making?
Randall Grahm. The guy is a dynamo. 20 years ago, the original Rhone Ranger started a revolution in California by focusing on Rhone varieties. Le Cigare Volant is still the best Chateauneuf-du-Pape-style blend I’ve had from outside CdP, and more people are trying to do that now. After selling off his most popular labels, including Big House and Cardinal Zin, and focusing on organics and biodynamics, he’s now bringing in the Portuguese and Spanish grapes, which I think is awesome. The loureiro/alvarinho blend Vinho Grinho is pretty damn good, and his experimentations will probably only get better. Plus he makes a sparkling riesling, which tickles me in a way I’d rather not go into further.
You make beards look awesome! Care to comment?
Actually, my beard makes me look awesome. The power is all in the beard. I am just its willing servant and host.
Read the blog: Notes From The Cellar
Follow on Twitter: @stevepaulo
Eat some Twizzlers: Twizzlers
The picture above was one taken “of the view from the ridge at Michel-Schlumberger” that he mentioned above. The one below is, to quote Steve, “an animated GIF of Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation” doing his best to feed himself a cheeseburger while dealing with a ruptured hernia. Oh, that Ron!”