And MacLean is a critic. She evaluates wines for her newsletter readers, and thanks to popular demand, she even scores them. To her, it goes with the territory: she's given her working life to wine, and her busy readers want to share in the practical fruits of her labors. But her criticism is a long way from the magisterial assessments of some of her peers. "First and foremost, I'm inconsistent. You never know where I'm going to go, because I'm always writing these tasting notes late at night after drinking! As you can tell, I don't take wine criticism seriously.
"I will admit that I'm influenced by my personal preferences. I find Pinot Grigio completely boring. I have written in tasting notes, 'This is a good Pinot Grigio -- if you like Pinot Grigio.' I didn't like it, but it's a good one of its type. I let my enthusiasm flow for wines I personally like. That would be Pinot Noir from just about any region...and then a crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or a German Riesling. I find a lot of Australian Shiraz and California Cabernet to be just too heavy. I find them overwhelming in terms of the oak, the alcohol, the flavor, the color, the extraction. They're just going to clobber your food. So I'm biased according to my personal palate. I'm not pretending to be a universal critic. I've told people, 'You've got to see if the kinds of wines I like line up with what you like. Otherwise, you're going to find my reviews very...I just don't cover a wide territory.'"
Not to say she isn't interested. "The book has been satisfying, even though it was a huge, huge commitment. That's why I want to do it again."
"Oh, there was some stuff you didn't get to?" I ask.
"Did you notice that Italy was missing?" she asks, laughing. "Bordeaux? I want to do something with a different concept, and with completely different regions. I'm curious. I want to get out and see places and bring my readers with me."