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Wine Diarist Biannual Update: The Kurniawan Trial Commemorative Issue (with some tennis porn, too)

2013 December 9
by Mike

Six months since my last post? Jesus, time flies. I guess I’ve created a new kind of Internet persona: the content non-provider. At any rate, my apologies to the two or three of you who missed me. All I can say is that it really has been a busy last six months! A good chunk of my summer was taken up reporting and writing a cover story about Roger Federer for The New York Times Magazine. Yes, it was an awesome assignment: I got to spend five days at Wimbledon, where I interviewed Federer, hovered around a couple of his practice sessions, and watched both of his matches on Centre Court, including his shocking loss to Sergiy Stakhovsky. There isn’t a bad seat on Centre Court, and the press gallery offers a particularly good vantage point. I’ve attended lots of sports events, but I’ve never experienced drama and tension quite like what I experienced sitting just feet away from Federer as he battled to save himself against Stakhovsky; I needed a cold beer after that one (unfortunately for me, I was in London, and the Brits still take their beer warm). That loss was the start of a miserable summer for Federer, whose struggles became the storyline for my article.

Here are some pictures from Wimbledon:

Federer chatting with former champion Goran Ivanisevic before hitting the practice court

Love this picture: Federer signing autographs

Look who else got hit up for autographs (I tried to talk them out of it, they insisted, I relented)

Rafa practicing ahead of his first-round match

Synchronized tennis? Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova on adjoining practice courts

Djokovic on his way to work

Camilla. I asked her for a tour of the royal cellar; she said to call Jancis.

At the end of the summer, my wife published a brilliant cookbook called Keepers, which you must buy. While she was out flogging her book, I tried to keep the kids housed, clothed, and fed (using recipes from her cookbook, of course).

In October, the beautiful Gramercy Tavern Cookbook, for which my wife served as the recipe editor, was published. Two huge book projects simultaneously? Even after all these years, her competence awes me.

But I haven’t been a total slacker myself (appearances to the contrary). Last week, I published a book called The Wine Savant. It is best described as a polemical wine guide, combining advice on becoming a smarter wine buyer and a better taster with spirited commentary on various wine matters (natural wines, the pendulum shift in California, the triumph of Burgundy over Bordeaux, etc.) It received a starred review from Kirkus (I’m told that a star from Kirkus is sort of a big deal as publishing goes), and some generous praise from Jon Bonné of the San Francisco Chronicle, who has written an important new book that you should also buy. Purchase both books for the holidays, make two authors happy.

Anyway, now that the publishing orgy in my household has come to an end for the moment, I hope to try to drop in here a little more frequently (how’s that for setting a low bar?). As you may know, alleged wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan went on trial in New York today (the Wine Spectator’s Peter Hellman wrote a good curtain-raiser, and the last line will give you a chuckle).  I am planning to catch a couple of days of the trial this week and a few more next week; I will try to post some thoughts and impressions. Having written a big story about Kurniawan, I’m certainly eager to see the trial. But given what’s been happening in the auction market, I now wonder how much the Kurniawan case, and the effort to combat wine fraud generally, really matters. If I can find the time—again, just setting realistic expectations!—I will explain in a post tomorrow.

7 Responses leave one →
  1. March 25, 2014

    I pay a visit each day some web pages and information sites to read
    content, but this web site gives feature based articles.

  2. brian permalink
    December 17, 2013

    welcome back! random question for you – i enjoyed your panel with jancis robinson last year at the 92Y Tribeca. It was great (if just too short!) and the tasting afterwards was also awesome. Do you have any plans for similar events in the future, or do you know of anything upcoming?

    cheers

  3. December 13, 2013

    You lucky dog! You must have had a great time at Wimbledon. I’m very envious. While I’m glad tennis is a big deal today, I sometimes long for the “good old days.” You may not be old enough to remember the WCT Tour, but back in the 70s it stopped in my home town of Charlotte, NC. It was a different world in those days. Everything was so relaxed and the players were so approachable. No one was around for practice sessions, so as a teenager I had many one-on-one conversations with Stan Smith, John Newcombe, Roscoe Tanner, Ken Rosewall, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and on and on. I even got to hit with Arthur Ashe! One day, my hero, John Newcombe offered to hit with me. I hadn’t even stepped onto the court and it started to rain! He only had a few minutes before he had to leave to catch a plane. We never got to hit.

  4. Dan McCallum permalink
    December 13, 2013

    Hello Wilford,
    Cannot speak for Mike, but maybe that comment reflects that he has recognized that wine auctions, or at least those of the nature being exposed here, are a vapid world. I hope so. Because they are.

    If there were no fraudulent bottles in the auction world, would the culture of it all be ridden of hoax?

  5. Wilfred permalink
    December 11, 2013

    Mike

    Great ‘seeing’ you again. You write: “But given what’s been happening in the auction market, I now wonder how much the Kurniawan case, and the effort to combat wine fraud generally, really matters.”

    I found this perplexing and wonder what you mean by it. Care to elaborate?

    Your buddy,

    Wilfred

  6. December 10, 2013

    Mea culpa, Barry! That’s a richly deserved smackdown. I’m flattered that you think so highly of my work, and I apologize for the long silence here. I realize that “busy” is the lamest of excuses, but it is true. And while I hate to make excuses, the fact is I do have a family to support, and paid work has to take priority. That said, I loved the many spirited discussions that broke out here, and I’ve missed the constant give-and-take, the banter, etc. Your comment is an excellent kick in the ass, and I will make an effort over the next few weeks to get the site back on track. Thanks for sticking with me; it is greatly appreciated.

  7. barry r graham permalink
    December 10, 2013

    I started reading you at Slate. I loved your column and you are one of my favorite wine writers. I was sad to see that column end– but glad to see this blog begin. Btw–the best recommendation I ever got from you was the wine by Rhys which I buy enthusiastically now. Thank you for that.

    But now I need to ask you a simple question:

    Do you or do you not have a blog called Michael Steinberger’s Wine Diarist?

    Because this– what’s been going on here– is neither a blog nor a diary. People like me who enjoy your writing and rely on professionals like you to taste wine, talk about it and make recommendations beyond our own experiences need you. Now, I just need to know whether I should write off this relationship I thought I had with you.

    I drink and taste a lot of wine but I still need others like you and Asimov for guidance, for the new and the overlooked and the fact that there’s just too damn much out there that I would never know about from my corner of Chicago.

    Please make a decision. Will this be a blog/diary where you communicate about wine regularly with people who care about wine or an afterthought for pix of tennis?

    For the record, I spent the Summer and Fall in Milan, London and Vienna(where I watched Wimbledon with an English couple who uncharacteristically yelled and cried) Then, back in Chicago bought and rehabbed a new condo.

    I still managed to click on this blog once a week to see if you’d updated or had something to say.

    And I must say the fact that you say you were both BUSY!! …and a slacker….doesn’t bode well for the decision I hope you make.

    I do look forward to reading your book– so there’s that.

    All the Best
    BGraham

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