Silence has set in with the end of winter. I am spent. My apartment needs cleaning and I need inspiration. Sure, it was very cool to win a Squirrel Award, but it wasn't enough get the adrenalin to kick in, to push the Adderall-like button for focus or the peyote button to fuel creatitivity. The snow has not worked its magic. So having forgotten how to write I was about to pull out Letting Go to find out if I could milk inspiration from Roth's prose. Instead, not realizing I was being masochistic, I read a story about Barolo by the famous husband and wife duo. This fabulously popular couple have an approachable, no nonsense approach. However, while I find them so nice, I question their tasting ability. They start their Friday story by kvelling about a 1997 Barolo drunk recently (they don't tell us who made it). The wine they raved about would have been twelve-year-old. A baby, but depending on what they were drinking, they wine could have started to develop some complexity and interest. Realizing how much they miss the Nebbiolo grape, they then cracked open a 1964 Cerretto. Filled with Barolo love, they assembled a tasting of the just released 2004 vintage. They collected 50 bottles under $70. Did they say 50 bottles? Did the WSJ really give them a budget of $3500 for the column? If I get $200 for samples for a story, I'm happy. For $3500 I could go to Piedmont and actually look at the vineyards the wines come from and talk to the winemaker about working in 2004 so I could better understand. But, never the less, sometimes one has to assess a vintage from the comfort of a kitchen far away from the vines. That's okay, I was just dreaming what I could have done with the dough. However, I am perplexed by their conclusion: they called the 2004 vintage simple uninspired and souless. Of course they were simple! The wines were only five years old and Barolo is probably the most difficult wine to assess in its youth. Even though they advise, 'Before we'd spend that kind of money, we'd make sure we had a merchant we trusted who has a good selection of Italian wines. And, most certainly, before laying any down -- and that is what most Barolo lovers do -- we would taste them to make sure we liked them even in their infancy so we wouldn't be disappointed as they mature.' Could someone please tell them that young wines do not have the same complexity of older wines? That’s the nature of the Barolo beast. On top of that, what were they were basing their critique on. But even if they did mean to condemn a vintage, they need to explain it. What were the tannins like, the nature of the fruit, and what about the structure of the wine? This is Barolo, structure in its youth is integral to its development in old age. In Eric Asimov's Barolo piece earlier last month, he found the 2004's appealing however, yes, with softer tannins. He did not note simplicity in his assessment. I cannot tell you where I weigh in on this because I haven't done a large tasting of the vintage. But never-the-less, I have a hard time when writers smack down vintage. In this case, especially as they really don't seem to be experienced when interpreting young vintages, it seems irresponsible. One could well argue that there are no bad vintages--only bad winemakers. Of course I'm generalizing. But, I've bad brilliant 2002 Northern & Southern Rhones (the flood year). I've had fabulous 1992 Barolos (Giacomo Conterno's declassified Barolo, cheap and luscious.) Even in the year I do indeed avoid (except for Loire reds)-- 2003, in the hands of a producer I'm committed to, even that story is a good one to follow. Vintage marketing spin is everywhere. True. And if anyone tells you Bordeaux in 2008 was brilliant, smack them off your list of reliables. I was in Bordeaux right before harvest, and most of those vineyards were devastated by nature's wet and damp and uneven assault. All around were molded grapes, shriveled grapes, green grapes. There was uneven ripeness, bad flavors. On the other hand I also saw utterly gorgeous work in the vineyards. Those who worked their ass off and didn't work chemically, prevailed. They will have great wine for sale. I'm always curious to see how the winemakers I follow handle the vintage challenges. That is why I drink wine, for the story, for the plot line, to see how the nuances were parsed. I get to drink the winemakers efforts, see how they cleared the hurdle, this is what grips me, even now, in the clutches of dreary winter. If I had the money to buy Barolo all of the time, in every vintage, here's my short list. Unfortunately, given how much technology is being used up there, the list is shorter all the time. They are no bad vintages in their hands, only wines that need more time or less time but some will be spectacular and others at the least interesting. Bartolo Mascarello Giacomo Fenocchio Guiseppe Rinaldi Teobaldo Cappelano And perhaps: Livia Fontana, Roagna, Giuseppe Mascarello What about you?