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Snooth User: Richard Foxall

Separated at Birth?

Posted by Richard Foxall, Jan 13, 2017.

I'm watching "Sour Grapes" (with French subtitles--which is wild) and I'm completely charmed by Laurent Ponsot, who was the one who really got the ball rolling in nailing Rudy K.  I keep thinking he looks like someone else.  Here's Ponsot:

Image result for laurent ponsot

And then it hits me:  He's a ringer for OT's friend, winemaker extraordinaire and generous human Mike Smith.  Tell me that Mike, with a goatee, wouldn't look just like Laurent.  Here's Mike:

Image result for mike smith myriad

Another of Laurent:

Related image

OT, you've spent more time with Mike than any of us.  Does he ever lapse into French?  Call himself a "vigneron?"  Oh, wait, that wouldn't be a big deal.  He does really like Burgundy, doesn't he? 

You can view the movie on YouTube now (with French subtitles).


Reply by GregT, Jan 13, 2017.

Hmm, I suppose.

And then there's this:

and another version:





Reply by JonDerry, Jan 13, 2017.

Ponsot's post harvest dinner celebration with his employees really surprised me, it almost seemed corporate in scale. Anyhow, it was a bigger production than I would associate with a Burgundy domain. Maybe for the bigger houses like Jadot, Drohin, etc. but I suppose Ponsot's operation is fairly large by Burgundy standards. Also thought he came off pretty well!

Of all the things, I didn't appreciate Rudy K. joking that a wine was corked (when it clearly wasn't) after opening some expensive bottle. Thought what an annoying thing to say, but it was probably more how he said it.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 13, 2017.

I'll be honest, I was appalled by Rudy's lawyers.  First, defense lawyers should never talk about their clients' cases with media.  (I've had lots of opportunities, as the old crew here knows.)  Secondly, they didn't seem to have a unified strategy.  I also though Jef Levy looked pretty bad.  Does he not understand cognitive dissonance?  You get in so deep, of course you find yourself standing up for the guy.  And Kapon's interview about wine as an investment... as good as gold?  Gold hasn't been a very good investment.  Really inarticulate in explaining that the supply is dwindling because people consume it. 

Ponsot, Cornwell (pretty sure I met that guy somewhere) come off best.  The guy who tipped off Ponsot was left out.  Also, the wine fraud expert Maureen Downey came off well.  Wonder how much Bill Koch (who hates all regulation) cringed when his "bulldog" investigator said lack of regulation was the problem.  Also, he analogized wine collecting to how you love your wife, which is hilarious since he went through some very ugly proceedings when he kicked his mistress out of her Boston condo--a pretty open secret at the time, but he was married, or at least I was introduced to his wife when I was one of his gardeners in MA.

By the way, I found Pak Hendra.

I do think ten years was too much time, but the feds punish economic crime harshly. 

GregT, watch the movie (unless you've seen Ponsot in person), then visit Mike.  The way they carry themselves adds to the impression in my opinion.  But, again, I defer to OT. 

Reply by JonDerry, Jan 13, 2017.

I don't think they resemble each other Fox. 

Reply by GregT, Jan 14, 2017.

Saw the movie Fox. I thought Ponsot came off best, pretty likeable actually. Only met Mike once, but he was a likeable guy too, so maybe you are on to something.

Some of the others in the film were OK but many came off as douchy, clueless, or self-promoters.

Unfortunately they didn't have any of the highly-esteemed critics talk about how wonderful so many of the wines were. Rudy did us all a favor in a way.


Reply by JonDerry, Jan 14, 2017.

Did you taste with Rudy ever Greg?

Reply by GregT, Jan 14, 2017.

Nope. There was a particular crowd in NYC that didn't really like wine so much as they liked to be seen buying and drinking expensive wines. They treated wine auctions as some kind of competitive sport. Not my thing. And it was also kind of a herd mentality - Burgundy Burgundy Burgundy. Also not my thing. Somms and others fawned over those guys because there was a lot of money involved. Once in a while they'd appear in an article in WS.

I met a few of the NYC group individually and they were OK folks one on one. But they and critics like Burghound had no idea they were drinking fake wine. Maureen said one time that nobody could tell if a wine was real just by tasting it. You have to hire an expert like her to look over the package. THAT'S how you can tell. It's the package, not what's in the bottle!

Same with Rodenstock a bit earlier.

Reply by rckr1951, Jan 15, 2017.

I've a friend that I showed Greg's response.  He was running around at Windows of the World and those kind of places years ago and all he really had to say was Amen.  He left for Seattle shortly thereafter and said it was there was not the pretense he experienced in NY.

Reply by outthere, Jan 15, 2017.

Kind of a reach Fox. Take the glasses off and they really don't resemble each other IMHO. YMMV.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 17, 2017.

Well, it turned out to be a fun thread anyway, even if OT shot me down. Thanks, pal. 

Such a burn on Meadows at BH.  His knowledge of back vintages of Burgundy is apparently highly dependent on those RK bottles. It was symbiosis, until it wasn't.  Did he wonder at all why this guy was suddenly sharing these bottles with him? Guess not.  To his credit, he hasn't engaged in as much point inflation as some critics, but that's kind of the Burg crowd.  Burgundy lovers think it's the best wine in the world, but it's never really great--off peak, had better, anything to show what a sophisticate you are. 

I think Maureen Downey is right for the most part:  Wine is variable, one's palate can be variable, old vintages were probably more variable even when young because, in many cases, they had no capacity to blend the whole run into one vessel before making it, so they had multiple runs, unless the quantity was small.  (Multiple blendings or bottlings were the norm in CdP until maybe 20-25 years ago, and probably after that at a few small places there.)  Then you have storage issues, how the wine changes--it isn't the same at 10, 15, 25--as it is aging.  Since most of those huge collections aren't drunk by the collector in his lifetime, even if the seller opened one real bottle, the rest could be counterfeit with little risk of detection by drinking.  Your best chance to catch a fake is clearly the packaging.  Rudy should have done better.  But what do you expect from a guy who had his epiphany wine on Fisherman's Wharf, then "collected" all those wines and started selling in less time than it takes a Brunello Riserva to get from vine to market? 

At the time the movie was made--released 2016, but assume interviews were over the prior two years--Bill Koch would have been 74 or so.  (Wow, I knew him when he was just 40! I'm getting really old, too!) According to the movie and other sources, he had 43k bottles at the time.  Assuming he drank two bottles a day--he's a big guy, he's got a wife (the former g/f of Kevin Costner), but he's supposed to have cut down after an ugly divorce battle --and never takes a day off or keeps the average up by having guests--let's say it's 750 bottles a year.  Let's just make the math really easy and say, with entertaining, he consumes 1000 of those a year. (His detective drinks beer and Bill alienates people, but I'm sure someone would come over.)  He's got to live another 43 years to drink it all if he never buys another bottle.  Look at all the auctions (besides RK's) that happen after the collector dies.  Which is why Koch himself sold  off about half his collection--hopefully the real stuff.  Did he profit?  Hard to say, but he did get about $20M.

I think Greg summed up the group pretty perfectly.  Downey gets a little sniffy when she talks about how they don't respect the wine (from another set of interviews, but you get that in the movie, too). I am repelled by  the whole show offy thing.  I thought McInerney was a bit of an enabler and creepy in the way he now makes himself so available to talk about what happened at these parties where he was plainly partaking of the same BS.  He's hard to take seriously in any way at this point.  Cornwell seems like his geeky passion has been taken away from him to a serious degree and seems a bit forlorn--now it's just a rich man's game, not something a mere professional with an interest and a decent amount of money can play.  In spite of all this, these reference wines will just be out of the question for almost all of us.  Those who can pay will have to decide if they want to support the prices.

You know what's killing me now?  A few years ago, Berkeley Bowl had a good wine program, and they had some Ponsot wines for a pretty reasonable tariff.  And I didn't buy any.  Ah, well.

Reply by GregT, Jan 19, 2017.

Great post Fox.

Reply by JonDerry, Jan 19, 2017.

I have some Ponsot resting in the cellar Fox, so you only need to hang on a decade or so longer while my youngest bottle of CdlR (2008) gets into its drinking window. I did try one a while back, which was a bit of a sin, but it's a totally different style, lower impact but still really saturated and rich in a way. Definitely blossomed with air.

Really hope you make that Arlaud dinner. Discussed with the wife last night but wasn't able to make a very good case. It's also a day after Super Bowl, so theees that too.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 19, 2017.

JD: Funny I didn't even notice that the date was the day after Super Bowl.  Now I'm thinking a French vigneron has no interest in the game, so is there some way I could convince him to have dinner on Sunday?  That would be much better than hiking with the dog or shopping for furniture...

Thanks for the praise, Greg. 

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