What does wine mean to you? It is an interesting question with no right or wrong answer. Wine means different things to different people. For some it’s an important part of every celebration and every meal, for others it’s just Friday night out with friends. For me wine is a celebration of life. It is a product of the land, a vision of an artist, and a little Chemistry 101 (preferably very basic and natural).
Recently I took a ride out to visit some winemaker friends in the North Fork AVA to discuss the 2011 Vintage. It has been a rough harvest season on the North Shore of Long Island. After a reasonably cool summer, late August brought Hurricane Irene, another tropical storm and an abnormally large amount of rainfall. This much moisture right before harvest can cause sugar/acidity levels to be thrown off, as well as the possibility Mildew and Rot. With all these challenges, there was an air of confidence. “That’s farming”, the tasting room manager at Macari Vineyard’s told a couple sitting next to us. “We work all year long for the harvest, hope for the best and prepare for the worst”.
That preparation reveals itself in so many of the fine wines that are being created on Long Island and around the world. The difference between quality winemaking and bulk winemaking is 1 part technique, and 2 parts passion. This passion can be expensive however. Passionate winemaking is staying true to the land that you farm, low yields (purposely cutting a large amount of fruit off the vine to improve the remainder), vineyard management, hand harvesting, hand sorting and personal care throughout the winemaking process. It is spending more time, effort and money to be true to the craft. Artisan winemakers take pains in every aspect of the process, and this is how they are able to create quality wines even in a “not so perfect” growing year.
For me, I want to taste passion in my wine. I want to know the story, the winemaker, and the philosophy of the winery. These all add to the allure, and yes the taste, of a wine. The story of the wine makes you feel part, in the know and emotionally connected. Quality wine is truly created in the vineyard by a farmer, It is finessed and crafted by an artist, and basic chemistry brings it all together.
Tonight I have the opportunity to go to an incredible tasting. Imagine tasting all the First Growth Bordeaux’s, Several Grand Cru Burgundies, Top wines from Tuscany and Piedmont at the same place. It really will be wine sensory overload. As the hour of this event approaches, I can’t help but look back to when wine became an important part of my life.
I was not always a wine drinker. In-fact, I never drank wine in my youth. Pop was a Scotch man, Mom did not really drink, and the only time wine was on the table was at the Jewish holidays. So how did my obsession with the Grape occur you ask? There is a single moment, or a single wine that most wine enthusiasts look back on and say, “That’s were it all began”. It’s like a flash of lightning, like the scene from the Godfather when Michael Corleone sees Appolonia for the first time.
For me it was a moment, actually a fantastic fall day 12 years ago. A couple of friends and I discussed developing a documentary about the North Shore Wine Region of Long Island, NY. It was a great story with fun and eclectic characters, and all the makings of an intriguing film. This particular day we were at Lenz Winery and interviewing winemaker Eric Fry. Eric was generous with his time spending a good part of his day taking us through the vineyard, the barrel room, the wine making process, and an incredible tasting. He took us through all the varietals, all the different years, from the barrels, mixed blends, pretty much everything they had to offer and might offer in the next few years. He taught us how to use our senses of sight, smell and taste to distinguish different varietals and flavor profiles. It was like an accelerated mini-wine masters in a day. One of my partners on the film project, a long time wine enthusiast, said “I see it in your eyes, you have been bit”. He was right.
Since then, I have studied, tasted, and enjoyed wine with a pure passion that is reserved for few things in my life. When I approach a new wine I want o know about it, where was it grown, who is the winemaker, what is the story behind the winey. For me wine is best to be experiences with all the senses.
So tonight is an exciting night with great wines to be experiences, but today I will try and do a little research about a few of these phenomenal wines, so I can not only taste the wines, but experience them.