I’m going to jump right into the bad news, and not stray away from it for the rest of this article. A couple of situations have come up within the world of wine and food that have me feeling depressed, conflicted, and angry. I’m not going to sugar coat my feelings about them. There’s no need.
The first bit of bad news, I’ve yet to talk about publicly. Not because I haven’t wanted to, but because I’ve not had the heart to. I’m doing my best to go there now because it needs to be talked about and it’s nothing, if not a benchmark moment. I’m still not sure my words will accurately sum up how I really feel, but I’m giving it a shot. I hope you’ll forgive my indulgence, as I may just need to work through this as an exercise in free-thought. This has been so upsetting for me that if I’m able to give you anything coherent, it may come as a result of my editor being able to shape and make sense of the next couple of hundred words and help translate them into what I’m trying to say. She has shaped many articles I’ve written into some damn good stories. Sometimes I feel I should list her as co-author. That’s how powerfully she digs into my work and my words. Upon her first read through, she always knows what it is I’m trying to say. So she cuts and suggests, she questions the direction, challenges me to go deeper and to find the meaning and the voice of the piece. “Don’t be lazy.”, she always says to me. “If someone is taking the time to read your words, give them everything you have.” So with that, let’s begin.
Anthony Bourdain killed himself a few weeks ago. Just writing that that sentence stirred me. He hanged himself in his hotel room in France. I think he might have just decided that everything that he had accomplished up to that point was enough. Maybe he just said, “I’m done.” Whatever problems were lingering for him could only be resolved by cutting off the air supply. A temporary problem met a permanent solution. I don’t question his reason(s). It was his life and his choice, but I’m sad, and I’ll miss
him and his art and his brilliance. Never will know who will be the next Food Network Star. Never will he dance at his daughter's wedding. Never ever will he be present, ever again. I’ve read many thoughts regarding his death. Some talked about how selfish he was. Others said they have their own grief and life to deal with and they can’t fill their time with a strangers death. Others asked, why? Some cried. Some posted photos of themselves with him, at book signings or at an event or just a random street selfie they’d taken with him after spotting him out and about in New York City.
Me? The books I had of his, that sat on my desk, are now put away in a drawer. His words inspired me, and I used them as references for how one might formulate a well-crafted sentence, regarding food, wine or a lonely café in Hong Kong. The remaining recorded episodes of Parts Unknown that I’d yet to watch have been deleted from my DVR. I unfollowed him on Instagram. I wept while I was cooking in my kitchen. He was a mentor I never met. A person who, just by observing through TV and books, in conversations and interviews he’d given, moved me and taught me how to be honest when talking about the things you love. For now, I prefer to have all memory or reminder of him, put away. I can’t enjoy watching or seeing him at the moment. It’s like a bad reflection. This is my way of grieving him. I said I’m sad, but I’m also angry. If that makes me selfish, then so be it. I will miss his passion. I will miss his words; spoken and written. Bourdain. Dead at 61.
The other bad news is something I just found out this week. Duckhorn Winery has purchased Kosta Browne Winery. I could put it another way. “My least favorite winery purchased my favorite winery.” Ugh!! Or there’s this. The way the world likely sees it is that one private equity firm purchased another private equity firms assets. Over the last 20 years, Kosta Browne has had four large corporate investors. Following the last corporate buy a couple of years ago, it became pretty clear that the founders Dan Kosta and Michael Browne would probably be stepping away. Ultimately, they did in 2017 and left to pursue other ventures.
I’ve been on KB’s exclusive mailing list for nearly 10 years. I celebrated when I received my welcome letter. I’ve never missed an allocation offering from them. That will most likely stop this Fall. The first release to come out of KB following the new direction of the winery was the 2016 vintage. It wasn’t terrible. It was nice. Has great aging
potential, but for me, it lacked power, which is another way of saying it lacked passion. It lacked the heavy alcohol and fruit madness that put KB on the map so many years ago. For me, it lacked truth, and when that occurs, they’ve lost me.
The biggest reason I’ll be moving away from drinking Kosta Browne beyond the 2016 vintage is what I read in Wine Spectator regarding the future of the winery; “ Under Duckhorn, the team hopes to expand its consumer base.” No! Say it isn’t so! The limited access was a big part of their success and also, their charm. Kosta Browne became a consumable Veblen good, which is somewhat of an oxymoron. The demand increased as the reviews and the price increased. Everyone wanted a Kosta Browne, but only a few owned them. The price on the open market was 2 to 3 times the winery’s release price. As a wine junkie, finding a KB on a wine menu was like following a rainbow to its rightful and inevitably elusive conclusion. It was magic, and that’s about to go away. It's likely that within two years, you will see a bottle of Kosta Browne at your local wine store for under $40. Duckhorn will do what they have done with all the wineries they own; Duckhorn, Decoy, Paraduxx, Goldeneye, Migration, Canvasback, and Calera. They will create an Estate version of the wine and sell it at a higher price, and create a mass-produced bottle of swill to fill their case count demand for the average consumer. It’s tragic. In the world of business that is how the machine feeds itself. In the world of boutique wine, that’s how you ruin good juice. Isn’t that right Mondavi?
In honor of two of this year’s significant losses, I’m honoring them both with a drink and a nod with the beverage I enjoyed most this year. Limoncello. I wrote about Robert Peveroni and what he is creating in Italy, back in May. Below is a tease from the article
The maker of this liquid gold, or yellow, rather. The producer is Lemon Limoncello. They make extremely limited editions and only once a year in the months from April to July. The reason for this is that the Sorrento lemons, from the Amalfi region, are the correct (and best) lemons to use in making limoncello and they have a very small window for reaching their maximum aromaticity, and the aroma of the lemon is an essential element.
You can read the full article here: Limoncello
“I wasn't that great a chef, and I don't think I'm that great a writer.” - Anthony Bourdain
John Turi has had an impulsive career as a writer, wine critic, and artist. He has two published books of short fiction and poetry. He is a former child actor with the anxiety to prove it. He began college with a major in Mortuary Science, later switched to Creative Writing, and, finally finished at a free love hippie art college in Southern California with a degree in Graphic Design and Marketing. During his college years he worked in the wine industry and acquired a delicate palate for varietals. For the last 20 years he has become a private rare book and wine collector. He desires California Pinot Noir from Sonoma County in Northern California. As a way to pay for his wine and book collection he works as a Senior Marketing Manager for one of the largest adult sex toy companies in the world. For the good of his sanity, he is a columnist at ConnotationPress.com , where he writes a monthly wine column featuring only the best bottles. He currently resides in Southern California with his beautiful wife Shawn Marie, a motivational speaker for female entrepreneurs. Enjoy John's latest book 'A Drinker With A Writing Problem - A Wine Lover's Retrospective' available at Amazon in softcover, ebook and audio book formats.