May 20, 2012

Winemaking as biography

I'm sitting in the Jet Blue terminal at JFK airport after an excellent first trip to New York City on the wine schlep. Meaning, I have a distributor selling my wine in Manhattan and I enjoyed the opportunity to work the local market for the first time. More on that soon enough.

While I wait, and undoubtedly for the hours of my long flight back to Portland, I'm reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, highly recommended to me by my brother-in-law. So far I've only managed to read the introduction, but I was struck by Isaacson's recounting of how and apparently why Jobs chose him to write the book.

Jobs apparently thought Isaacson was good at getting people to talk, to open up. And despite occasional misgivings, Jobs professed he had nothing to hide. He wasn't always proud of what he'd done but said there weren't any skeletons in the closet. Jobs wanted Isaacson to tell the whole story.

That's what I want to do with grapes. I want to get them to talk, to open up, to listen to them. I want to tell their story, not mine. It's not a new thought for a winemaker to resist making his or her own stamp on thing, and of course any winemaker or biographer still has a fundamental impact on the final product. Our names go on it after all. I've just never thought of winemaking as biography until now. I want to think more about that, but I like it for now.

Time to board. More on the NYC trip in a few installments. Trips to wine shops around town, a pouring at Chambers Street Wines, and the most ridiculous dinner at Picholine last night that I won't soon forget. I love New York.

May 10, 2012

2010 Vincent wines sold out

I'm happy to say that I've sold out of all four of my 2010 Vincent Wine Company wines. It took more than 12 months to sell 200 cases of the 2009s and only six months to sell all 300 cases of pinot noir from 2010. I'm excited that things seem to be starting pretty well.

As one of my growers suggested magnanimously, I should make more wine, presumably from his grapes. I will this year, with chardonnay coming online and maybe another bump in pinot production. It's not easy. I have a full time job outside of wine, so I think it's smart to grow slowly. Plus, it takes money to grow more quickly.

All of this I say apropos of nothing, only that I've learned it's right to celebrate things like this. And celebrate we will. Then next week it's off to New York to help promote the wine we're selling there. I'm looking forward to that trip. More on all that soon.

May 06, 2012


When people ask what's the oldest wine I have, right now I'd say those nebbioli from  the 1960s that I got from Chambers Street last fall.

The real answer is this single bottle of 1943 Dom Perignon, one of the oldest wines of the most famous labels in the world, a Champagne grown and made in what must have been one of the darkest years of the second world war.

The year 1943 seems like a long time ago, and it is, though you're still in your 60s if that's your birth year. Not young by any means, but not old. Not quite yet.

It's an eternity for Champagne, especially this one.

I don't usually mention the Dom though. It's not wine you can have dinner with anymore. It's gone. The wine that once existed is now a memory, the bottle an urn on the shelf. Something I'll always keep because it makes me smile.

This bottle came with a few others from my great uncle, a gourmand in the old school sense who's long deceased. I house sat once and in the old wine cabinet were some legends, including a few of these. I opened one and it was dead then, maderized, cooked.

The others showed the same signs of seepage, usually from heat expanding the wine, forcing is out around the seal of the cork, ruining the wine. I kept one and have had it ever since, like a pipe from my grandfather, nothing I'll ever use but something from them both, something of them.

It's just not really wine anymore. It's become something different, its life unwound until it's a pile of thread on the table, an unraveled spool, sweeter still because it makes you smile anyway. Even if it can't come for dinner anymore.

May 01, 2012

2006 Qupe Marsanne

I used to buy Qupe Marsanne every year back in the 1990s. It was among the cheapest wines Qupe produced and I remember liking it a lot. Over time, I've found that some things I liked a lot back then aren't things I still like. Many other things still ring true, and Qupe Marsanne is one of them.

I haven't stayed up with Qupe as a producer. I remember them back in the day as a maker of less intense, more balanced Rhone vareity wines, mostly of the red variety. Their basic Central Coast Syrah was an easy go-to wine at home and out in my San Francisco days. Their other bottlings usually seemed like interesting wines at reasonable prices, even at the high end.

A while back I found some stray bottles of 2006 and 2007 Qupe Marsanne. This wine is known to age well, with five or six years still on the young side. I thought I'd try the 2006 to see if that's still true. Oh my god, if you ever wonder what I like in white wine, here's an example. Stony, with melon and citrus flavors, beeswax to round things out, crisply acidic but so flavory and still thirst slaking. Truly a wine that compels another sip.

So apparently Qupe is still up to good things. This isn't typical, commercially common wine. Yet it is delicious, and honestly makes me want to find Marsanne to play around with. That's the trouble with making wine. You taste another grape and think...hmmm, I want to make some of that. For now, the Qupe will suffice.