From the proper pronunciation of Pinot Meunier to a workable and acceptable definition of balance, wine can be a really confounding thing…and that’s just for the folks who actually make it. So much of what we ultimately end up doing – from picking decision to press date to final blending is done by feel. I liken this time of year to spinning a ton of plates for as long as possible, running from one to the other to keep it in motion for just a little longer, and ultimately accepting that the “final” decision (the inevitable tumbling of the dish) is the right one.
The elements that I keep going back to, especially when thinking about what my final blends will bloom into, are balance and proportion, elegance and evolution.
I had the occasion last night to take my Reserve Room tasting team through a flight of the 2007 Small Lot Offering wines (our 100% Bordeaux varietal releases) in order to highlight the most important elements of those wines for their guests. I had not had those wines (Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and LINEAGE | Livermore Valley) at the same time since 2010, and I was overjoyed to discover how some of the decisions I made then – in terms of barrel choice, maceration times, etc, were paying dividends in texture, liveliness in the mouth, and elegance of presentation. This flight will be available to enjoy soon in our Reserve Room.
From the first major decision: when to pick the grapes, to the point of putting the wine into bottle, I am thinking about how to make wines that are of a piece. I believe the best wines are the most beautiful and elegant wines. For me, elegance means proportionality and cohesion. It means that there are no winemaking flourishes that are made simply because I can.
Each wine I make must express the point that it is exactly what it is supposed to be – a reflection of a place and time and philosophy that gives room for the wine to BE the wine. While it is true that winemakers MAKE wine, I want to be deft in my decision making, striving to make sure that the choices I make are (first) those that – Hippocratically – do no harm and that are made in service of the most beautiful expression of each vineyard and variety I work with. Great wines are those that effortlessly display their complexity, potential for positive growth and – in the end – a living, beating heart.