Thanks to the fine wine fanzine Loam Baby, now I know I share this thought with Steve Matthiasson, one of my favorite white winemakers in Napa.
Matthiasson says of St. Helena, "It's so damn successful and perfect that I need to listen to punk rock when I'm driving through to balance myself out." Matthiasson's St. Helena playlist also includes Black Flag's "American Waste" and Minor Threat's "Out of Step (With the World)."
The winemaker's playlist is only one of the unusual features in Loam Baby, which is not like any other wine publication currently on the market.
|Matthiasson's Oakville playlist.|
Drexel has refined the art of the fanzine since the first two editions, which were about winemakers in Santa Barbara County and the Santa Cruz Mountains. Those were amusing, but more "fan" than "zine." Drexel asks more direct questions in the Napa issue and gets some interesting answers.
That said, this is not traditional journalism. In the first paragraph, Drexel writes, "When I sat down to chat with Philippe Melka earlier this year, I felt I should apologize to him for some inexplicable reason, for an article that had appeared in the Wall Street Journal about wine consultants just prior to our interview. The journalist who wrote the piece seemed more focused on the number of clients each consultant had, and how much money they were earning, than on the actual day-to-day nuts and bolts of the services they provide clients."
What a suck-up, I'm thinking. And yet, the approach yields a result.
Melka, answering a question about managing client expectations, makes this fantastic statement:
"I have to admit, though, that very few people nowadays mention scores to me. I think part of it is because so many people want direct sales these days. So they are more focused on how to capture people who come into this valley and introduce them to their story and their wines, and build a relationship with the customer."Can it be true: a Napa Valley where wineries don't care about ratings? By phone, Drexel said, "It was surprising to me, but I think it was a very honest answer."
|Jayson Woodbridge. No donkey here.|
Drexel is mild-mannered on the phone, but doesn't edit out the obscenities, so we learn that Woodbridge started making the value-priced Layer Cake wines because -- this euphemism is going to be more fun to write than his actual quote -- he thought a lot of cheap wines perform an act of love and/or obeisance on a famously well-hung farm animal.
There are long sections of Loam Baby that drag, if you're not as interested in the people speaking as Drexel is. But you can say that about any wine publication (including this one).
Drexel says the next edition of Loam Baby will be outside California: either in Oregon or New York's Finger Lakes region. "I'm also going to be working on a special chefs issue, which I've started taking notes for," Drexel says. "I don't know which will be next. Going out of state is a little bit of a challenge because I have to pay all my own travel expenses. But there will be a next issue. You might call it my form of therapy."
Drexel will sell you a hard copy of Loam Baby for $15, or you can read the whole thing online for free. Here's the website for either.