Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The freedom to say "I don't know"

I was just reading a "manifesto" from a winery (which in itself may be a bit narcissistic, but hey, they're winemakers). In it, they discuss how they harvest their grapes earlier than most, with resulting alc% around 13%. Unlike many consumers, I have a fair amount of exposure to these sorts of wines. One of my very favorites to evangelize is Nalle out of Dry Creek. Nalle has a similar approach, and their wines are amazing. Their pinots are burgundy. I don't mean because of the color, or because of the acidity, many wineries acheive this, but because of the prominence of the creaminess on the palate. So I know what they are talking about, and I'm into it. But this goes against conventional California wisdom. We usually rave about hang time, and letting acids set. Those acids go hand in hand with alcohol, which we all rail against. Then's there the whole lignification argument.

Further confusing this is the impassioned exposure I've had to many producers that make nearly 16% Syrahs that are amazing. Not Shiraz-like, but rather tertiary with olives, and bacon, and coffee, and campfire,and menthol,and all of the secondary flavors and aromas that don't come from sweet over extracted wines. Oh, and did I mention that you can't tell the alcohol is knee melting? So how can both realities exist? How can wines and grapes be maximized by 2 completely divergent harvesting philosophies? The answer is "I just don't know". I am a winemaking geek, but I've never made wine, nor do I ever intend to make wine. I think the different approaches are fascinating, and both approaches, along with dozens of others, fascinate me. I don't pretend to believe one over the other. If there was enough of a groundswell of agreement about the correct way, we'd all be drinking the same wines. Doug Nalle makes wines he likes, as should every winemaker.

I often talk about how we are naturally inclined to try to find rules and easy understanding of complex systems. This is human nature. I've abandoned hope for figuring out the right way to do things (winemaking), I like them both, and many in between. So at this point, I still believe in Chupacabra, The Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. You know what? That's ok, because I'm not a Cryptozoologist either.