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    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    An Argument for Dedication

    How many things do you rely on your phone to do? On top of making calls, sending text messages, gathering emails, we expect our phones to wake us up, remind us of tasks and remember all of our friends' phone numbers, addresses, emails and screen names, even take care of our Facebook and Twitter accounts; that's a lot of responsibility for one device! But this seems to be the trend; with modern technology booming, and consumers eating up every advancement, dedicated devices are thought of as underachievers. Why have a machine that does just one thing, when technology can allow it to do 12 other things as well? Is more better?

    Steve Jobs has said that people wouldn't be willing to pay for a dedicated device and that "general-purpose devices will win the day." Mr. Jobs may be onto something, but with the recent surge of Kindle, Nook and GPS sales, one may start to think "Why do we want a device that only displays e-books, when we can have one that can surf the web, play music, make calls as well?" My answer is simple. No, really, I mean it. Why would I want an e-book reader? Because it's simple. It provides me with the leisure of reading and lets me escape my world, which is already connected via phone, email, text, twitter, facebook, myspace, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.... I don't need twitter to push my @replies while I'm on chapter 7 of Alice in Wonderland...

    I love my iPod and my smart phone, but I still want that dedicated device. It's nice to have a GPS in my car that I can rely on to do its one task. It's great to have a blender that does just that. My blu-ray player works just fine without connecting to the internet. These devices are not inferior, for the most part, these dedicated devices perform their functions better than the multipurpose ones. Multitasking is great, but we don't need it for everything. Imagine a world where your phone had a corkscrew built into the top, or if your computer mouse also stapled documents.... Nifty, but a little ridiculous.

    Much to a similar tune, I think we can get lost in our wine and expect it to do too much. Wine already provides us with such a rich myriad of textures, flavors, memories. But some winemakers want more; they manipulate the fruit, the process and the art and sometimes it comes out confusing and overly-produced, much like a musical artist who relies on effects rather than talent. Like our dedicated devices, I feel that we should care less if these wines were made with steel barrels or grown in space. We should focus more on the grapes; the fruit should really shine and dictate the wine, not its process. (I know this is a pretty far stretch, but just my two cents.) It will be hard for you winos, but try this: next time you drink, forget the tasting notes, the charts, the reviews. Turn off your cellphone, forget the tweets and the wine apps; just enjoy the moment. I'm positive, like reading a good, simple book, that your experience will be just as enjoyable.

    How many of you wouldn't be able to go a day without your iPhone? Maybe you know that a more complex wine-making process results in superior wine? Let me know what you think!

    Love and Cheers,


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    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    The Best Wine "App"

    iPhones, Blackberries and Droids are being sold at a record speed and these smart phones are quickly digitizing the way we carry on day-to-day business. One of the nifty things about these phones are the applications that can be downloaded to them for a variety of functionality, connectivity and just plain fun. As a passionate pursuer of wine, I'm more than positive you guys with smart phones have ventured into a couple of apps for wine.

    There is a myriad of apps that do everything from comparing prices, aggregating ratings and providing reviews and suggestions.
    I've explored a few of my own, both purchased and free downloads, and originally wanted to write a post reviewing a couple I got to experience, to help you make a better choice in wine apps. But, after a few weeks of road tests, I just want to reflect on how useless these really are. Wine apps boast their ability to turn you into a connoisseur, hunt down the best prices, find the best rating, suggest the best pairing and everything in between. But the best app isn't on your smartphone and wasn't developed by some programmer; the best app is the staff in the wine store, who will converse with you, get a sense of your taste, the occassion and your interest, and be able to show you the wine that you need. (Or in some cases, never knew you wanted!)

    Okay, so I'm being a little dramatic; not all apps are useless. We all want to save money and the apps that help me assess and compare QPR are the ones that I found most useful. But please take heed; these apps are only tools for helping you choose that perfect bottle. (I dare say, in wine, there are no perfect bottles, only perfect memories.) They should not make the decision for you. No one should walk into a wine store and shut-out the merchant -- they, above any app you can download, have the best knowledge about what they're stocking, how their bottles are drinking and how it might please you. Consumers have a notion that all wine sellers are trying to get you and make theirs. If you encounter a wine shop or a salesperson like this, please find a new store. One with a knowledgeable staff you can talk to, who want to get to know you and know your palate. This is the connection that is lost if we blindly look up every bottle in consideration on our phones.

    But having reviewed apps for weeks, I thought I might as well share my findings. Across the board, I found that most apps did not deliver. Consumer reviews on all of them were very brief and non-descriptive (not too many people post their tasting notes from their iPhones I assume) and a lot of times the wines being searched were not present in the databases. Most of them claimed to be able to do a lot of things, but rarely delivered. I found a lot of apps that were good at one thing but lacked in all other areas. I suppose you could hunt those down and have five different wine apps to go through, but what's the point? A few stood out, in my humble opinion, and were worth noting. Also, please keep in consideration that I used these apps only a few times to get a feel for how they work, so they are not thorough, wine-professional reviews; just me, a normal guy, walking into a normal wine store with some apps trying to buy wine:

    The Wine Ratings Guide by Nirvino -- Apple Apps Store, $2.99 --
    I included this app because of their very impressive and extensive database of wine. I found most of the wines I searched for and their average prices. But I had to say that the app name is a bit misleading; The ratings are on a five-star scale and there are no consumer reviews, which sort of make the app useless unless you just want to find the average asking price. Sort of expensive for a one-trick pony.

    Wine Snob by 9mmedia -- Apple Apps Store, $2.99 --
    Although the database seemed very limited (only 2 of the 12 wines I searched in the store came up) I had to add this because of its cool Geotag feature - every wine entry is logged through Google Maps with GPS Coordinates so you can literally trace your wine. The reviews were not very useful, and it does let you put in your own tasting notes... So, it's nifty and different, but not too great at the wine part...

    R-Vintage Lookup by REGARD Solutions Corp. -- Blackberry App World, $3.99 --
    I was disappointed to find no apps on the Blackberry that really was worth this post (if this post is worth anything at all...) but I did find this useful app. As the name suggest, R-Vintage shows you vintages, varietal, region, 100-point rating and a drink or hold status. This was helpful to me to see what years were good and helped me to stray away from some bottles that they came from less than preferable years. The layout was simple but again, this is a one trick pony; it doesn't have reviews, you can't see individual bottles, so at four bones, this was a disappointment...Way too expensive for what it offers.

    Those were just a few of the many I road-tested. Here is a list of the rest --
    Apple App Store:

    Wine Ph.D
    Wine Pad 2
    Wine Enthusiast Guide

    Blackberry App World:
    Wine of the Day
    10 Top Wines
    Nats Decants Wine and Food Matcher

    I wonder, has anyone tried any of these apps? What were your opinions on them? Do you have a wine app you use frequently? Please comment and school me!

    As you can tell, although most apps did offer some helpful tools, an all-in-one app that can satisfy my need for consumer reviews, QPR, extensive databases and the ability to understand my palate, my personality and my wine-curiosity has not been developed... yet. Until then, I think I'll try the un-digitized version of finding quality wine; Stacy, a knowledgeable and helpful staff member at the local store :) Thanks for your time!

    Love and Cheers,
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    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Help Out Without Really Trying!

    We all can be better people. I like to think that if work, school, responsibilities and all that life throws at us permitted, we would all be more charitable beings, able to give endless volunteer hours to groups, run endless miles-of-tribute or donate more money to whoever needs our helping.

    Ever since performing as the Ghost of Christmas Present (thanks Lori!) in my 7th-grade production of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," I've always wanted to be a better giver, Ebenezer Scrooge-style. Even though it is trending due to the holiday season, that story always gets me to the point of near-tears no matter what adaptation or revision it is, be it a Jim Carey-CGI-animated blockbuster or a knockoff-Tori Amos-ABC Family adaptation.

    So why should you care? Charity and my middle-school theater roles have nothing to do with wine or technology (although I beg to differ.) I'm posting this because of a site that Natali Del Conte of CNet has brought to my attention; Non-Profit Shopping Mall is a great way we can all give back this holiday season while we select the gifts we will be sharing with our loved ones. The best part is, you don't need to do anything extra but click!

    Non-Profit Shopping Mall works on a commission base, where each retailer listed gives a little percentage to an organization of your choice. Why is it so great? Because EVERYONE is in there. All the retailers you would have looked at anyway are there, from Bestbuy to, Nordstroms, Target, Gap, Home Depot, get the point? None of their prices are marked up in anyway. The best part about all that is you can give to a charity of your choice, and there are tons listed, including the Children's Miracle Network, ASPCA, American Heart Association, UNICEF and so much more. So you literally just shop and the big corporations (not you) donate the money and you do nothing you wouldn't have done in the first place!

    Please, I urge you all to consider this option as Thanksgiving weekend comes to an end our holiday season starts to gear into full-swing, and please consider it every time you shop online. What a great opportunity for us to give back and better fulfill our social and ethical responsibilities to be better people.

    If you have trouble deciding who you want to support, please consider Toys for Tots or the Children's Miracle Network, which are my top choices. This December 18-24 I will be dedicating most of my time volunteering for Toys for Tots through my unit in D.C. It will be grueling work, but just knowing that a child who wouldn't have gotten anything from "Santa" will this year makes it all worth it :)

    Happy Holidays everyone, and please shop at nonprofit until you drop (or your wallet goes pop!) The link is provided below for you to explore this wonderful way to share your wealth and give to others who really need it.

    With Love and Cheers,
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    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    Beer from up There

    Sapporo, the Japanese brewery you may be familiar with if you frequent sushi bars in your area, has announced the release of their new "Space Barely," which uses barely that has been grown on the International Space Station... Yes, in Spaaaaaaaaaaace!

    I was super excited to try this out when I heard about it, but it doesn't look like I, and most likely you, will be able to anytime soon. According to them, you must be one of the extremely lucky 250 winners who are drawn from a lottery. If you are selected, you get to pay $119 for a six-pack, limit one-per-lucky-winner... That's almost $20 for one beer... Sweet... So yeah, you have to win first, then you get a chance to buy some high-priced six-pack >.<

    The barely was harvested from the ISS space station as part of a five-month space mission that experimented with growing crops in space.

    Here's a Reuters video-press release linked below if you want to take a peek of it yourself:

    Does this intergalactic barely have any affect on the beer? Maybe they used martian water and moon yeast to brew it? That will be something we have to wait to find out. If you are lucky enough to get one of these beers, please chime in and tell me how it is. (And feel free to send a sample.) Until then, I think I'm going to try to secure a few cases of Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout before they run out!

    With Love and Cheers,
    -Tatum Read More!

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    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    Baby Steps

    Growing up is far from a generic term for "becoming an adult." We all grow up in different ways, through different processes. Even once we are "adult," we keep growing; we can't stop that part of our lives.

    I've started and restarted DeRanter many times in the year-or-so it's been created. I've come to the realization that I was too ambitious; here I was, a young writer and oenophile, who wanted to be like the greats. There's nothing wrong with ambition and goals, but we must know where we are in terms of achieving these goals. I wanted something that can bring wine and technology together; nothing original on my part, but something that genuinely interest me. But I came on too strong, too fast. It became work instead of interest. But as I've spent time away from DeRanter, I've learn to grow and realize how I, personally, achieve my goals. It's not by jumping right in. It's by research, reading and self-induced excitement on the subject.

    I'm no longer concerned about being a "well-educated wine guy." Truth is, I'm not. (Obviously! :P) But I will try to become a writer with interest. Hopefully interest the same as yours. I want to try to convey this through tech-news and wine issues that I fully research and understand and really delve into. I can't promise anything regularly; with my hectic school, work and rehearsal schedules, finding motivation to write can be daunting. I can't even promise a unique approach to this whole wine-tech-blogging thing; I can only promise my approach to it, and hopefully this approach will be unique and interesting enough to keep you reading. So please, come back for more!

    -Tatum Read More!

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    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Biodynamic Wine: A first look

    I wish I could go back in time to ask winemakers of past, "How do you think wine making will be affected by future technology?" They surely wouldn't know about our advances in computers.They might not mention the use of modern wine making trends like steel barrels, micro oxygenation, ultra-sound, computer chips in vineyards or extreme temperature control to make cheap wines palatable. However if I were to explained the new Biodynamic Wine trends sweeping the globe, they would think we have regressed back to medieval agricultural traditions!

    For those not familiar with biodynamic agriculture, let me give it to you straight from the Wikipedia article: "Biodynamic agriculture, a method of organic farming that has its basis in a spiritual world-view , first propounded by Rudolf Steiner treats farms as unified and individual organisms emphasizing balancing the holistic development and interrelationship of the soil, plants, animals as a closed, self-nourishing system."

    What this means is the vineyard is considered in it's entirety as a living thing and seen as an organism in it's own right, but one that is in consistent with lunar and cosmic patterns and rhythms and not merely a substrate for plant growth... Wheew...

    Wine makers are taking weird, unconventional methods of viticulture and wine making and following a strict biodynamic calendar of harvesting, planting and etc. because they believe it will help their vines and ultimately their finished wines. These methods are broken up into several preparations that all seem a bit odd and skeptical. Such examples include Preparation 500 where cow manure is buried into the soil for a period of time, dug back up and spread over the fields. Other examples include fermenting yarrow flowers in a deer's bladder or oak bark in a skull of a domestic animal and applying them to compost or spraying the vines with horsetail tea, according to the biodynamic calendar. Weird stuff you thought you'd see on Taboo, huh?

    But what definitely has the world in shock and awe is that no matter how medieval, superstitious or unreasonable these methods seem, the winemakers (all notable and renown in the wine making world) are producing outstanding wine with biodynamie. These producers include Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Zind Humbrecht, Huet, Beaux Freres , and Benziger among numerous others. (For a list of more producers check out I think what really has people going is because there is almost no way to prove this advantage scientifically... They just seem to be better. Here's an excerpt from that sums up the whole thing:

    Despite these problems, proper studies have been carried out, and generally they seem to suggest that biodynamics really does work. In 1993, Reganold and colleagues compared the performance of biodynamic and conventional farms in New Zealand, a report published in leading scientific journal Science. They found that the biodynamic farms had significantly higher soil quality, with more organic matter content and microbial activity. In 1995 Reganold published a review of the different studies that have examined biodynamics and have met basic standards for scientific credibility. The conclusion was that biodynamic systems had better soil quality, lower crop yields and equal or greater net returns per hectare than their conventional counterparts. But what could the mechanism be? A tantalizing clue is offered by some experiments carried out by a graduate student of Reganold’s, Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, on the effects of biodynamic preparations on compost development. In an experimental setting, biodynamically treated composts showed higher temperatures, faster maturation and more nitrate than composts that had received a placebo inoculation. Reganold is clearly impressed: ‘Of all the farm systems that I’ve seen, biodynamics is probably the most holistic.’

    As I conclude I will state that biodynamie on vineyards does work... They seem to produce greater environments, grow superior grapes and make tastier wine. The hard thing to conclude is why does this all work? Ancient civilizations have planted, harvested and celebrated with the phases of the moon and the cosmos for centuries. Perhaps there is something there? Perhaps it is some sort of spiritual, holistic reason for this all to make sense. Or perhaps it's just with biodynamic procedures, wine makers are paying close attention. They are giving their land, their resources and their environment the attention it deserves; the close attention and observation that is needed to produce superior wine. That's something this world could never have too many of; devoted, passionate and dedicated wine makers who "listen" to their vineyards. For further research on Biodynamic wine I urge you to google up on the subject and be sure to check out for a great resource on the subject.

    Cheers to you,
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