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A wine drawing philosopher with a heart of gold. aka. #firekitten

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  1. Tyler Thomas
    Tyler Thomas at | | Reply

    Elaine, thanks again for continuing the dialogue. I appreciate the platform and how it helps me self-examine my own positions as people comment. I did want to make something clearer here in the comments. It is important for people to understand my comments late in the post regarding flavor. It is not that I don’t care about flavor at all; for certainly specific flavors are central to what we experience and enjoy in wine. Allow me to emphasize the preceding paragraphs where you frame that comment. I’ll just add that in trying to understand a new site and its terroir one must not concern themselves too much with what specific characters are going to be there. With less familiarity it is harder to know how one can shift flavor tendencies and this is why it is important to lean on the basics and focus on wine architecture. You do so in the hopes that the flavors will take care of themselves as they usually do. So in some sense I certainly care about them, but not in a sense that I can do much about them.

    Parenthetically I had a wine club member ask me if I was going to change the coffee flavor that he loved in our Merlot. I said if it was coming from oak (not likely but possible) then he might see it fade to the background because I planned to use less new oak but if it was inherent to Star Lane Merlot then it would still be a player in the wine because there would be nothing I could necessarily do about it except in how certain choices either enhance or diminish how much shows in the wine.

    So focusing our mental energy and time on specific flavors in a new situation takes a back seat.

    With all that said, I did look for benchmarks of flavor not only in our own wines but also in others. I leaned on people’s experience in a region so I could understand the tendency of the flavor profile such that I might have better information about how they (the flavors) may fit into a particular architecture or stylistic choice like responding to stem inclusion. Greg Brewer was a big help here because he understood what I was trying to understand. Knowing the flavor tendencies does give one better info on how you can lean the flavor in one direction or another without compromising what the vineyard’s expression might be. But as I said before, I think it still less important to determine whether I’ll have cherry or raspberry, cedar or pepper, and rather focus on structure, concentration, and balance.

    Cheerfully – tyler

  2. John Kelly
    John Kelly at | | Reply

    Tyler – the idea of focusing on the architecture rather than the “flavor” or aroma resonates very deeply with me. For example, I use more new wood to raise our Pinots than I do for our Rhones, because the Pinot benefits from the tannins, and especially the barrel sugars in building the structure of the mid-palate. The Pinots seem capable of subsuming the aromas from the new wood into the whole of the aromatic profile, while in the Rhones – particularly the Syrah – new oak aromas seem much more apparent to me, to the point of dominating the nose. But I have found this is not true of all Syrah I have worked with. Syrah from some vineyards appears to integrate the oak aromas acceptably, but the wine already has so much structure and mid-palate body that the contribution from the new wood is unnecessary. In fact, the new wood contribution could disrupt the balance of the wine for me. I am in complete agreement that the technique we bring to the making part should focus on focus on structure, concentration, and balance rather than forcing the grapes to fit some formulaic all-inclusive expectation of what a variety should taste like. I believe that’s the approach that gives the interaction of site and physiology to be unmasked.

    1. Tyler Thomas
      Tyler Thomas at | | Reply

      John, it appears we are in complete agreement here, as I know we have been for years. I could sum up your paragraph with a phrase we’ve used before: avoid dogma. The technical components by which measure wine: pH, alcohol, TA, % oak, type of oak, maceration time, mg/L tannin, etc. are paradoxically irrelevant and relevant at the same time. Within a site they provide reference for how we know wine production functions and yet any particular set of numbers is relatively (important to note this word) meaningless. In spite of how some people want to educate consumers, if I tell them my wine has a pH of ‘x’ and an alcohol of ‘y’ they really know nothing of how it tastes. In this conversation I’ve often used stem inclusion in my examples but maybe alcohol would be better. I’ve produced wines from 11.8% to 15.5%…all in the same vintage. The sites dictated it to me. But if we pursue site expression and wonder what role technique has in flavor profiles, we can unveil and grade the impact a particular technique/component component on shifting typicity of a site. Does 13.7% really shift things compared to 14.3%? Not really. 12.5% to 14.3%? More so. The impact of alcohol (and everything it is connected to) can be graded as having impact but perhaps relatively more/less impact than something else.

      This indeed is why terroir is so important. It illuminates the fact that technique is only a tool for harnessing, not defining wine…or at least it should be. Pursuing expression of place ought to level the playing field and help us enjoy the process of wine making even more. Perhaps I can adopt a quote from CS Lewis and apply it to terroir: “I believe in [terroir] as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

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