When we go out to dinner with friends, often they ask me to order the wine. Presumably that's because I own a winery. I've often thought, though, that's like asking an undertaker to pick out your casket because he's in the funeral business. I'm sure that there is a more apt analogy. It's just that the undertaker keeps popping into my head for some unknown reason. As I've mentioned too often, when I was at Robert Mondovi's 85th birthday party he made a short speech....and by "short" I mean "short". What he said was: if you like a wine, drink it. If you don't, drink something else. Pretty basic. Yet, I totally subscribe to that philosophy. After all, that's why there are more varietals available (try Rhones) than Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot. Besides, having me pick a wine can be a bit dicey by anyone's measure. That being said, I have learned a bit about wine and vineyards along the way.
Last week I was in Traverse City Michigan. I hadn't been there for a while. Last time I was in Traverse City there was one winery. Their wine was marginal. Today there are some 100 wineries in the Grand Traverse Bay area including one owned by Madonna's father. The Northern Michigan "edifice complex" tasting rooms could give Napa and Sonoma a run for their money. More importantly, though, many of their wines were pretty good by anybody's standard, even though a little "spritzy". We sat on the shore of Lake Michigan and sampled a few wines along with some very nice cheeses (white caps on the lake, a crisp clear 70 degree breezy October day, wine and cheese). What could be better? Yet, as we drove by the vineyards I thought they looked ragged and sloppily farmed. There were no single vines with evenly spaced spires on each of the horizontal cordons. There were spaces and gaps between the individual vines so they looked spidery and almost fern like. Yet, I thought they must know what they were doing. Perhaps, I was missing something. I was.
When I got back I discussed my observations with Grayson, our vineyard manager and wine maker. He rightly observed that they, undoubtedly, specialized in Riesling due to the cold. They also farm differently because they lose so many vines to the cold. Where we rely on one vine to support the cordons, they can't. They leave three or more canes so that if they lose one they have backup replacements. The result is a messy look, but smart farming. As to the "spritz" Grayson explained to me that means there is residual carbonation co2 in the wine. Probably, it's caused by large batch tanking and early bottling. We use different techniques which eliminate much of the unwanted spritz. They may not have our options, again, due to the cold weather.
So, despite being a winery and vineyard owner I, again, learned something new. It never ends. That is a pleasure and a gift, not a problem. However, since I am still learning, you might want to order your own wine next time. Don't rely on someone like me. If you like it, that's all that counts.
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