A Resolution To Enjoy Wine More

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - January 02, 2008
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2005 Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay
2005 Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay

Happy New Year! I am looking forward to a great new year of wine.

Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? I have. I want to enjoy wine more this year. Believe me, I know how to enjoy wine. But this year I want to remember all the intrinsic value that wine brings not only to my palate but also my mind and overall being. I want to bring the romance of wine back into my life.

You see, for me, wine is not just a beverage made of fermented grape juice. It represents more than a multimillion-dollar industry, chemistry or economy. This type of thinking reduces wine to a commodity and erases its link to culture,well-being and art. There is so much more intellectual and emotional value in it - which is, in part, why it became my passion.

At its height, wine represents passion and a commitment to excellence. At every turn and throughout the entire year, the vine grower must watch and raise the vines to best focus their energy into producing the finest grapes possible. From plowing to pruning, selecting root stock and fertilizer, the passionate vine grower will use his or her knowledge to eek out every last flavor from the vines.

After harvest, the cycle begins again. That same passion and commitment also flows through the winemakers as they ply the winemaker’s art not to screw up what the vineyard has given them and allow the vineyard to “speak.” It takes great passion to be able to do as much as needed but as little as possible to allow the greatness that the grapes hold within them to shine forth. This is not to say that all the greatest wines are made laissez-faire, but it is with a spirit of partnership and husbandry that the great wine-makers treat their wines.

These labors of love entail sacrifice and endurance from those who choose to put their lives into it. It can be far from glamorous or lucrative. There are many sleepless nights, aching muscles and injuries - not to mention stress. Perhaps some even sacrifice family and relationship for the purpose of making the best wine they can. Great wine represents the will and tenacity to do nothing but the best. Endurance and patience are required from these individuals as they are completely at the mercy of weather, earth forces and pestilence - all beyond human control.

Wine will always be tied to the earth. As the saying goes, from dust we came and to dust we shall return. Fine wine grapes will always come from rock, dirt, soil, sand and dust. For me, its finest expressions are unique capsules of flavor from those very rocks and soils. A wine’s terroir is its “song.” Our link to earth is more than primal - it is part of what makes us human. We are sustained by the earth as grapes are on the vine. For the many of us who do not work the earth with our hands, we can still appreciate and find comfort in a bottle of wine that reminds us of that link. The greatest wines in the world come from very special and specific parcels on the face of this earth.

But wine not only tastes good, it makes us feel good. I don’t know who said it, but I believe that “wine is the ultimate social lubricant.” It is uncanny how as wine flows, so does the conversation. I have a Pavlovian reaction when it comes to wine - I get excited when I know I’m going to drink wine, especially great wine. The anticipation alone is a great feeling, it lifts my spirit. Or, as my friend says, “it’s half the enjoyment.” I won’t mention the plethora of health benefits associated with wine, but for me, it is not only physical, but it’s psychological. It is a joy for me to drink great wines and share them with great friends and loved ones.

May you find this same joy and may you drink as many great wines as you can this New Year.

Great “capsules”: 2005 Auguste Clape Cornas ($89) This isn’t good, it’s great Syrah. Grown on rocky soils from old vines, Syrah doesn’t get much better than this- deep blackberry, minerals, black olives and herbs. It is so refined and will age a good long time. 2005 Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay ($48) Few vineyards in California are as revered as the Hyde Vineyard in Los Carneros. With Donald Patz’s deft touch, he has crafted a delicious wine with heaps of ripe fruit, flowers and a sense of place.


Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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