Inferior Good: Diminishing Marginal Stupidity in Action

Monday, October 23, 2006

Give 'em a fair trial and then hang 'em

I check Craig Camp’s wine blog just about every day. He has an interesting perspective on wine and so far (based on only a few data points mind you) my palate seems fairly aligned with his.

I was a bit troubled by a link in one of his recent posts, however. The linked web page calls for a boycott of Krug-Mondavi in response to a labor dispute. I commented on Mr. Camp’s blog that it’s not clear to me that Krug-Mondavi actually did anything wrong. Mr. Camp responded:

The agriculture industry's track record of mistreating and underpaying its workers is well documented. Try picking grapes for a buck a bucket for a couple of days and then decide if the Union's demands were reasonable.

I was disappointed in his response, but perhaps not all that surprised. Here is my response to Mr. Camp:

Mr. Camp, it seems that your argument may be summarized as follows:

1) The agriculture industry's track record of mistreating and underpaying its workers is well documented.
2) Krug Modavi is a company engaged in industrial agriculture.
3) Therefore, Krug-Mondavi is guilty of mistreating and underpaying its workers.

I believe this logic suffers from a fallacy in which exceptions to the general rule are ignored. Here’s another example of similarly flawed logic:

1) Craig Camp finds recent release Alsatian Rieslings to be disappointing.
2) The Albert Mann 2004 Riesling is a recent release Alsatian Riesling.
3) Therefore, Craig Camp will not like Albert Mann 2004 Riesling.

Of course, we know you quite enjoyed the Albert Mann 2004 Riesling.

My intention here is not to be a persnickety punk, but rather to highlight the dangers of generalization. Of course, generalization is very useful tool with which we may simplify our complicated world. But imprudent use can be very hurtful.

You seem to be encouraging people to boycott Krug-Mondavi. This is a direct threat to the employees and owners of this company. Their lives could be materially damaged by this boycott, were it to be successful. Do you think it responsible to attack people’s livelihood in this manner before first knowing the facts?

If Krug-Mondavi truly behaved unscrupulously, then by all means take action. But in my view, we all deserve to be innocent until proven guilty.

Perhaps this particular issue is an emotional one for Mr. Camp. I know there are certain issues that cause an emotional response in my self that makes it difficult for me to see things objectively. It happens to me all the time really, but I work hard to avoid letting my knee jerk reaction get the best of me (not always successfully of course).

I think our world would be a much better place if we’d be a bit more careful about our use of generalizations. This is especially true for often contentious issues such as politics, race and religion.

UPDATE: Craig Camp posts this reply:

So by your own logic, as you admit you don't know the facts why are you bothering to comment. As you refer to the Mann Riesling, it is the exception to the rule, I can assure you that C.Krug/Mondavi are not when it comes to the treatment of agricultural workers. Perhaps if this boycott was successful it
would help the lives of these workers - a problem that is more pressing than helping the wealthy owners of these wineries. You could not have any other reason for taking up their banner other than you are indeed "persnickety".

This saddens me a bit. I was absolutely not trying to be an a*shole. I simple felt that the linked to webpage didn’t sufficiently support a very serious action such as boycott. I’d hoped we’d have a good discussion on the topic. Perhaps Mr. Camp had information on Krug’s past practices that he’d link to, for example.

Also, I’m simply suggesting that Krug should be treated as innocent until proven guilty. Isn’t that a basic concept in free societies? I’m in no way “taking up their banner”.

I find it distressing when a conversation turns from facts and issues to impugning people's motives. Why didn’t he just a) show me his evidence, b) grant he’s not positive Krug is in the wrong, or c) ignore my comment? Instead, he repeated his unsupported assertions and essentially called me a liar.

UPDATE II: Mr. Camp apologized in his latest comment to me. It appears that he mistook my intended tone. This certainly happens from time to time, and undoubtedly some of the responsibility is mine (I should have communicated more clearly my intentions… though of course I specifically said I wasn’t trying to be persnickety!).

He also provided this link to a blog entry talking about the poor conditions that vineyards workers face. I accept his apology of course, misunderstandings happen all the time.

[Ed. Update II was posted after Mr. Camp posted his comment at this blog. Whit intented to update earlier but was unable to do so.]

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Wine Blogging Wednesday #26: Where's Wino?

Beau at Basic Juice is hosting this month’s installment of Wine Blogging Wednesday.

Beau asks that each participant pen a tasting note for a red wine from Spain, France, or Washington (USA) or a white wine from Italy, Oregon (USA), or New York (USA). Beau will post each tasting note apart from the wine's name and region. Then, we will try to match each tasting note to its corresponding wine. Whoever gets the most correct will earn a prize.

So I'll post my tasting note today, but I'll not reveal the wine's name, region, etc. until after the game is over.

Here’s my tasting note:

This light to medium bodied red blend has a floral character and provides pleasingly restrained blueberry fruit. The wine is quite bright and fresh. While it had enough structure to successfully accompany my grilled rib eye, it’s definitely a juicy wine; it has a succulence that makes ya want to gulp it down.

Join in on the fun over at Basic Juice!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Anti-intellectualism and outrage

Check out DCB’s rant about "anti-intellectual crybabies" that act as though "being/getting outraged by politics is a positive character trait and indicative of thoughtfulness."

Boys and girls of Columbia University, many things in life are not unambiguously good or bad. If you find yourself full of rage over an issue, count back from ten and ask yourself if the issue’s really as simple as you think it is. And even if you conclude that yours is clearly the correct perspective, remember to respect other’s freedom to voice alternative viewpoints.

Buying wine by importer

Getting great stuff on the cheap feels good. With clothing it’s easy; if it looks good and fits, then you buy it. But what about wine? How do you know which bottles in the bargain bin are worth picking up?

Of course, there’s brand name. But beyond brand, what do you go by? You could go by varietal and/or appellation. But there’s immense variation among varietals made by different producers. And there’s also a lot of variation within each appellation and, frankly, I just don’t know the appellations well enough to shop like this.

So I often shop by importer. To be sure, some importers are more consistent than others, so you won’t want to try this with any old company. Personally, I’m fairly confident that I'll like (or at least find interesting) most wine imported by Therry Thiese, Louis/Dressner, Robert Kacher and Kermit Lynch.

On Saturday, my wife and I stopped by Urban Vines during a walk around the neighborhood. I perused the discounted odd bottles displayed upstairs. Based on price and importer, I purchased the 2003 Clos Roche Blanche Cabernet (Louis/Dressner), the 2004 Clos de Tue-Boeuf "Le Buisson Pouilleux" (Louis/Dressner) and the 2002 Domaine Sainte-Eugenie Corbieres (Robert Kacher). I’ll let you know how they work out.

[Ed. What about asking the merchant for assistance?] Good point. If there's a trustworthy sales person that knows your taste, definitely ask them for assistance. But keep in mind that a salesperson that doesn't know you may encourage you to buy discounted items just for the sake of clearing out inventory.

ADDENDUM: Here is a recent NY Times article about harvest time at Clos Roche Blance and Clos doe Tue-Boeuf. Also, you can find some of Eric Asimov's and wine auctioneer Ursula "Gavel Goddess" Hermacinski's favorite impoters at The Pour.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Who's the maniac?

I was driving through downtown yesterday, heading home from Pike & Western Wine Shop (where I picked up the Deiss wine I blogged about on Tuesday). On the way, I passed a group of people calling for, among other things, the impeachment of President Bush and his indictment for war crimes. One protestor hoisted a professionally printed sign with the message "Impeach Homicidal Maniacs". Many of the other signs featured similar messages.

Do people think hyperbole will further their cause, or are they simply disconnected from reality? I can understand a person disagreeing with Mr. Bush’s policies (I certainly disagree with many of them). I can understand a person believing he’s incompetent, or perhaps even of questionable character. But a homicidal maniac? Please.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


The title of this post is taken from the title of a friend’s recent email to me, which carried a link to a CNN article bearing this ominous title: Beer drinkers beware: 4 percent of U.S. hops crop burns.

According to the article, the US produces about 24 percent of the world’s hops. So I suppose then that about 1 percent of global hops production went up in flames.

Is a 1 percent decrease in hops supply significant enough to increase prices in any meaningful way (what is the price elasticity of demand)? Will this have a significantly larger effect in North America than elsewhere (are transportation costs significant)? Were the destroyed hops some sort of standard product, or were they specialty hops? We shall see. Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Thank you Cafe Campagne

I've been wine crazy for a fairly short time. Yet, through much drinking and reflecting, my palate is slowly becoming a little bit more experienced and discerning.

Unfortunately, I’m also now more likely to notice when a restaurant lacks a decent wine list. Too often the wine offerings are sweet, structureless wines that compete with, rather than complement, the food.

So these days, I appreciate it when a restaurant has a good wine list. Even better is a place with an extensive selection of wine by the glass, which allows me the flexibility to pair wines by dish (and of course with The Wifey pregnant, it’s great to not have to buy an entire bottle just for myself).

Café Campagne is one such establishment; it has a great wine list, including an excellent by the glass selection. Additionally, the food is solid and the atmosphere is warm and comfortable.

My wife and I enjoyed a pleasant dinner at Café Campagne just the other day. I ordered a three course, fixed price meal starting with a bacon and onion tart, continuing with vinegar and honey braised chicken, and finishing with Munster cheese.

As I’ve said before, I like putting experts in control. So I asked the Sommelier to select me an Alsatian wine with each course. The relatively crisp and clean 2003 Edelzwicker Reserve Albert Boxler was very nice with the tart, and the tawny Port like 2000 Banyuls Cuvee Mediterranee
Domaine Pietri-Geraud was good with the cheese.

But my favorite wine of the night was the 2000 Pinot Noir Burlenberg Marcel Deiss. This wine gives you plenty of black cherry and smoke over a firm structure. It overpowered the chicken unfortunately, but was enjoyable none the less. This wine is better suited to rich red meat with mushrooms, or perhaps game.

Some web searching and an email to the old importer (New Castle Imports) led me to the NW distributor (Odom Corporation), which in turn directed me to Pike & Western Wine Shop. I ordered two bottles for $27 each, which should be in by Thursday of this week. I love it when a plan comes together.

For more on Domaine Marcel Deiss, check out Bertand Celce’s blog and Jamie Goode’s web site. For tasting notes on the 2000 Pinot Noir Burlenberg Marcel Deiss, visit Tom Stevenson and Stephen Tanzer. (Photo: The Stranger/Annie Marie Musselman)

The worst wine ever

Steve De Long has a playful post and poll devoted to determining the worst wine ever. In the comments section of his post, De Long reproduces some pretty unflattering tasting notes from Wine Spectator:

Cantina del Taburno Greco Taburno 2000: (50 pts.) Repulsive. Totally flawed. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 2,830 cases made. (JS)

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche 1983: (50 pts.) Simply awful. Smells and tastes of burnt rubber, sulfur and rot–it has serious flaws. Dry, lean and disgusting. DRC should be ashamed for having released this wine.–La Tâche vertical. (PM)

Perhaps it’s not good form to make fun of bad wines. But it may be useful to ask somebody about their least favorite wine experience, in so much as doing so may help reveal the kind of wines they don’t like.

The worst wine I’ve ever had is the 2002 Renwood Grandmère Zinfandel. I imagine it tastes quite like a mixture of sweet blueberry syrup, sweet raspberry syrup and rubbing alcohol. As you may have gathered by now, I’m not a big sweet wine guy, except perhaps for dessert.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Intellectual honesty

We're all riddled with inconsistencies. It's refreshing to read the work of a seemingly self-aware, intellectually honest fellow that's willing to own up to his inconsistencies. That being said, the last line of the post is a bit of a setup:

That said, in the heat of argument, what would you rather have sitting between the two combatants? A bottle of Buckie or a .44 Magnum?

It's true of course, that you'd probably rather have two combatants armed with cheap wine than firearms. But undoubtedly, we could find situations where we'd want the two folks to have a gun rather than a drink; two people being attacked by a bear, for example. I'm probably being too picky here for I'm sure his point is that, all in all, firearms are more destructive and dangerous to everday folks than cheap wine. Perhaps so.

Speaking of self-awareness and objectivity, check out one of my favorite papers on political disagreement.