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What Makes an Outstanding Guest Experience? 

apologies for my absurdly blurry photo. The session itself was unbelievably clear!

Wivi Central Coast hosted a session considering the question what makes an outstanding guest experience, looking primarily at how tasting rooms at wineries can offer exceptional hospitality. The discussion was led by Barbara Talbott of Glen Larkin Advisors and moderated by Morgen McLaughlin, the executive director of the Santa Barbara Vintners. Previously, Barbara helped build the Four Seasons brand defining its exceptional focus on service and hospitality. She has since turned to consulting, speaking and writing about how to translate such experience to direct-to-consumer brands. Her ability to share a depth of insight through clear examples and tips for the attendees was impressive.

In making sense of the guest experience, Barbara suggests thinking of it in relation to three primary stages of experience. Doing so helps you define how you want to uniquely approach each stage of the guest’s time with you in the tasting room. The three stages are the Arrival, the Tuning In, and the Closing Experience. In thinking of each of these stages you can ask what you want to define that stage of the guest’s time with you. Answering that question can be guided by thinking of your job in the tasting room as providing hospitality with a purpose. The wine is a very important part of it but as direct-to-consumer sales have increased more and more the wine has become simply a vehicle for creating a larger interaction. The question is to ask what you want to offer.

In determining what you want to offer, Barbara says, be authentic, be real. She emphasizes that hospitality is offering a memorable experience. Consumers know what is real and what is genuine and in today’s market that is what people are looking for. It is also what will make them want to invest in your brand to return again or join a wine club. She explains that, “Hospitality is knowing just a few things. It is knowing who we are and what we want to offer.” Seamless hospitality comes from understanding our own values, interests, and strengths and how we want to offer those to the guest. Her favorite expression of this idea is the known saying, we should be who we are because everyone else is taken.

The goal in defining your experience in the tasting room is answering this is who and what we are, and this is what we are offering in just a few words. As one of several examples she mentioned, the Sonoma winery Gundlach Bundschu, affectionately called GunBun in the region, uses the simple statement, “Come slow down with us.” In one phrase they have delivered a picture of what their guest experience is all about. GunBun comes from the idea that “we take our wines seriously but ourselves not so much.” The guest experience they offer is unpretentious, friendly and family oriented, also hosting a regular music festival as the head of the winery today loves music. The choice to integrate music into their winery experience reflects what the family cares about.

A second example Barbara listed was Scribe, just around the corner from GunBun. There the brothers behind Scribe refer to their experience as a visit to “our farm.” The experience reflects their own background growing up on a farm, gives a sense of spending time in nature, and is defined by being leisurely, outdoors, and at the same time with a lot of interaction with host. It is a very beautiful while also simple, rural experience. Barbara then went on to describe an experience at Nicholson Ranch winery. There everything is grown and made on site, and the family has chosen to create a true estate experience offering in depth exploration of the soils and vineyards, or a relaxed tasting alongside the vineyard, or a sit down tasting inside.  The owner-winemaker is often there pouring the wine. In each case, the experience is one of being next to the winery/vineyard and in that way part of where the wine being tasted originates. Finally, Barbara referenced Domaine Chandon. There the signature experience revolves around sharing with people the process of making methode traditionelle sparkling wine while enjoying the wine made there. In this way, Barbara offered four distinct examples that were each shaped by the wineries answering what they can uniquely offer.

In deciding what it is your winery can uniquely offer Barbara suggests thinking about a few simple tips. In a few words, what is the feeling of the experience that you want to stand for. How do you want to bring it to life for the guest. Do you want to offer a place to relax? A place to borrow the rural lifestyle? To travel vicariously? To deepen wine knowledge? She points out these are all things one can offer beyond a mere wine tasting while the guest is tasting wine. In designing a tasting room and the experience offered there, there are numerous decisions that must be made from what kind of music will be played, to how the space will be designed or decorated, to whether or not food will be offered and if so what kind. She clarifies that if you know what feel you want to bring to life for the guest all of these other questions can be answered much more easily.

Another key point to answer is what exceptional basics do you want to offer – what things in your guest experience do you want to do really well?

Finally, she emphasized the importance of visual elements within the tasting room, be they photographs, videos, or maps, as examples. She suggested that visual elements should be present in the tasting room but that the key is to make sure they are authentic to the winery and the people there. Once they are in the tasting room then they can be used to connect visitors virtually to the experience and the place, and referred to throughout the tasting as a means to do that.

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

 

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WiVi Central Coast

Phil Markert speaking at WiVi Central Coast 2017

Wine Business Monthly hosted a day long conference yesterday on winemaking and viticulture WiVi here in Paso Robles. The day included a series of sessions on all aspects of the wine industry. In vineyard care there were sessions on canopy management or vine diseases. In the cellar they looked at managing phenolics and then later focused in on winemaking choices in Pinot noir. For hospitality side there were sessions on creating a unique customer experience and then later tips on managing the tasting room. Krush radio, 92.5 fm, was even on site all day doing live on-air interviews with some of the speakers. Mixed throughout the day were also tasting trials focused in on winemaker experiments with side-by-side tastings looking at the effect of particular techniques in contrast to others.

One of the seminars that was particularly exciting to hear was a presentation by Phil Markert who spoke on trends in wine sales through the retail sector. Phil oversees wine and liquor sales for the retail grocery conglomerate Albertsons/Vons/Pavillions overseeing all of Southern California. Prior to the sale of Safeway to the larger group he was a Vice President for that company overseeing merchandising for non-perishables (that is, wine sales here too). He has been in wine buying for these stores for over 30 years, 22 of which he has been buying in Southern California, and 8 years buying nationally. As Phil explained, the wine sections of these grocery stores are managed essentially as a wine store that happens to be within a grocery store. Phil has taken a brilliant approach at building connections between these Southern California locations and wineries, as well as with winemakers and restaurants. He shared a wealth of insight on both actual sales trends happening regionally and nationally, and on tips for promoting sales that benefit all sectors.

Phil Markert at WiVi

As Phil explained, the health of the wine business in Southern California is strong. There has been an $85 million increase in wine sales, an 18% 2 year bump (dude. That’s huge.). The stores within the Albertsons/Vons/Pavillions group are organized individually, while still interconnected nationally, in order to promote connections to the local community both through events and offers specific to the local community, and also through the promotion of local products. For this approach to work effectively, he said, stores need to be managed by local districts in which stores share general trends and locale. In the case of wine this strongly benefits regional wineries. In the Paso Robles store, for example, of the 50 top selling items 42 are from Paso Robles. He has seen a huge trend towards local products in stores across the country. The interest in local wine purchases in Sonoma, for example, even outpaces that of Paso.

In designing the buying strategy for wine, Phil described the core guiding principles. As part of these guiding principles, they had to define what it means for a product to be local. First of all, the product must come from within a relevant radius of distance to the store. But, in this sense there are two different senses of local – the broad definition is simply within the state, so in our case, California. Second is what they call hyper-local, referring to products ultra close to the actual store – within 5 miles, 20 miles, 30 miles, etc. Secondly, for the product to count as local it has to illicit an emotional response where the customer feels as though the product is part of their identity, or part of the regional identity, or almost as if the product belongs to them somehow. He further commented that for the millennial customer there is a strong interest in knowing where the product comes from, who makes it, and if it has a unique history or legacy. Most of all, the customers’ sense of bond or connection with the product or company drives sales. In selecting brands to feature, then, the wine sections of the grocery store like to look for wineries that have an intimate connection with the community through community activities, donations, partnership, etc.

In current retail trends, the focus on localization has been the most effective strategy for promoting retail sales. While there are overarching trends across the country, markets more strongly show micro-trends that demand local management and planning. Phil clarified that in tracking these in wine sales he actually turns to the sommelier community as a predictor for forming trends. By looking at wine lists from restaurants within the neighborhood or town (depending on size of the area) surrounding the store he has been able to predict appropriate buying strategies. Later in the Q&A we also discussed the role sommeliers have as table side educators and guides for customers who are already known to have the expendable income to spend on wine and how this drives sales outside the restaurant as well. (Restaurant goers are already a self-selected group of people willing to spend money on food and beverages.) What this means for wineries too, then, is that if they can penetrate the restaurant market of their extended community they can naturally increase their customer-interest base for retail or DTC sales as well.

In looking at specific trends happening more broadly – there has been a huge increase on sales for premium splits, 375 ml bottles. He believes this is primarily driven by two buying sectors. Millennial are more experimental in their buying habits wanting to try both premium and oddball wines. The 375 ml bottle allows experimentation more readily than a full-size bottle. The Boomer population has also been buying more premium splits. Currently around 60% of the Boomer population is single, so they are buying more premium splits to drink on their own. He said there is also an increase in sales for 375s in picnic communities.

At the same time, there is an increase in sales for premium magnums. To make this economically feasible the wine sections of the grocery stores are focusing primarily on magnums that are $75 or less. They have also seen an increase in wine sales sold in tetra packs, or cans.

At the same time that local sales are increasing, there is also an increased interest in international wines. For the Millennial population this supports the interest in experimentation. For the Boomer population, international wines are still associated with premium branding.

In terms of overall styles, rather than regionality, there has been a massive increase in interest in crisp, clean whites, higher acid rosés, and to some degree also fresher reds (though more especially high acid whites and rosés). The increase in retail trends in these styles of wine, Phil explains, was predicted in the restaurant sector first by tracking the increasing interest in these categories from the sommelier community. Importantly rosé sales have become a year round phenomenon. There were significant rosé sales for Thanksgiving, as well as Valentine’s Day, for example. In the last 52 weeks alone there has been a 292% sales increase in rosé alone. (DID YOU SEE THAT MAKE SURE YOU SAW THAT BECAUSE WHOA.) The greatest increase has been in French rosé but there has been a proportional increase in local rosé sales as well.

(As an interesting side note: the increase in retail sales of rosé happily correlates with production trends happening in California as well. There has been a steady increase on wineries making rosé, though I don’t have those numbers – this point came up from conversations later in the day. It is a happy coincidence this turns out to be true as there is also need for this increased interest. The increase in red blotch in vineyards through the state has led to more producers picking for rosé, for example, as well. Red blotch impacts leaves more severely later in the season making it more difficult to ripen red varieties. By picking early before the leaves are as impacted growers can guarantee they are able to use the grapes and simply make another style of wine from it instead, rosé instead of red. This is not insignificant, however. Rosé is usually not sold for the same price as red so there is still economic loss in this solution though not as severe as simply being unable to harvest.)

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

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Hyde de Villaine

Born of a collaboration begun in 2000 between Napa Valley grower Larry Hyde and Burgundy winemaker Aubert de Villaine, Hyde de Villaine (HdV) produces premium Chardonnay (as well as a range of red wines) from one of the region’s most coveted sites for the variety. Hyde Vineyard grows Chardonnay in the clay soils of Carneros, that, combined with the site’s older vines, offer incredible innate power to its wines. The oldest section of Chardonnay at Hyde was planted in 1979, established with Wente cuttings. With the wish to stay entirely in California heritage selections, in the 1990s a portion of the vineyard was planted to Calera cuttings as well, though the majority continues to be Wente. Vine age has proven an advantage not only for the quality of the wine but also the health of the vineyard coming through the California drought. As the vines have continued to age, cellar choices have also shifted. The older the vines the longer the wines are held in barrel before bottling, for example.

Stephane Vivier leads the winemaking for HdV, working with the Hyde and de Villaine families to adjust the expertise of Burgundy’s long heritage to the particular character of Napa fruit. The house style, for example, has included full malolactic (ML) conversion since 2004. The cool character of the Carneros vineyard’s microclimate make preserving a sense of intense freshness while still doing full ML possible. The HdV team chooses to innoculate for ML with a strain that delivers ultra clean flavors, while also going through ML in a relatively shorter time. As Stephane explains, while many producers in much cooler climates choose to go through ML slowly to bring greater depth of flavor to otherwise steely fruit, warmer climate Chardonnay can benefit from the opposite approach – maintaining balance from a shorter ML process. While Hyde Vineyard is cool for Napa Valley, the wealth of sun brings greater flavor development, and overall temperatures are warmer compared to more genuinely cool climates like Burgundy.

The goal for HdV is to produce what Stephane calls restrained opulence. As he explains, in Burgundy, Chardonnay is understood as the Queen of Grapes, simultaneously sturdy, serious, and even imposing, with a noticeable presence. Respect for the fruit, then, comes with recognizing that natural stature of the variety. The view makes sense when tasting the HdV style – nobility comes with an innate opulence without excess as it is shaped by poise and control at the same time. Thus, HdV respects the fruit expression of California while crafting viticultural with a focus on freshness and cellar choices to maintain that integrity.

In the cellar, winemaking techniques are kept simple. Fruit is harvested to capture acidity. Then, in one of the most distinctive winery choices, the fruit is pressed at profoundly low pressure and slow speed. Pressing lasts a rather long time, as a result, outstretching industry norms for the region by more than half a day. In taking the long, slow approach, handling of the fruit is minimized through a gentle touch that invites a subtle frame and a range of understated flavors in the resulting wine. As Stephane explains, the idea is to keep things simple but to make complex wine. During aging there is no racking and before bottling no fining of filtration. It is not necessary with full ML. Barrel choices are kept consistent. Aubert has a long standing relationship, since the 1950s, with the Francois family and so those barrels are used for HdV as well.

Tasting Vintages: 2014 and 2011

Last week Stephane and I were able to taste the 2014 and 2011 vintages of HdV Chardonnay. The record cold temperatures of 2011 were outstanding for the variety. In 2014, the third year of drought brought a surprising combination of bright acidity and ample flavor at lower brix.

As Stephane describes, the 2011 vintage for Hyde Vineyard was fairly wet at the beginning and then turned cold. Big rains came at the end of the season, impacting harvest for many people, though HdV brought in fruit prior to the biggest storm. The weather conditions reduced fruit set and slowed ripening bringing a lot of innate concentration and producing a very focused and bright wine with an utterly persistent finish. The 2011 Chardonnay remains mouthwatering and focused while carrying a bit more richness of age compared to the utterly youthful 2014.

The 2014 harvest came with the impact of three years of drought. Vines were just beginning to show drought stress but vineyards throughout the region dealt with it by creating one more push for large yields, a hopeful last chance to reproduce. Yields were large throughout Northern California. At the same time, vines created a surprise reaction – vines had significant crop but with concentration comparable to that coming from cold 2011, also offering acidity and ripe flavor at lower than usual brix. The 2014 wine is savory and lightly spiced in a focused, mouthwatering frame. Opening lean and concentrated, it continues to evolve significantly with air pointing to good aging potential and plenty of interest through the palate.

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

 

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Hanzell Chardonnay

Any time I can taste Hanzell Chardonnay – older or current release – it is a treasure. Their whites are among my favorites from California. Included in their wealth of vineyards are the oldest continually producing Pinot and Chardonnay vines in the state, planted in 1953. The original vines were established from cuttings of Stony Hill. In the Spring Hill District of the Mayacamas Mountains, Stony Hill was the first Napa Valley vineyard and winery established post-Prohibition. The rest of the Hanzell Chardonnay vineyards, including blocks from 1972, 1976, 1992 and 2001, are established with cuttings from those first 1953-vines as well as heritage selections from Hyde and Robert Young, and, in small sections, Dijon clones.

Hanzell sits within the broad Sonoma Valley appellation, on the eastern side of the county, set against the Mayacamas Range that divides Napa from Sonoma, while also open in the South to the cold, moist influence of San Pablo and San Francisco Bays, and the Pacific Ocean via Carneros. More recently it has been included in the sub-appellation of Moon Mountain, the slope on which it sits, but, as Hanzell grows low on the Southern side, it greets fog and a cooling influence that in those ways surpasses much of what the rest of that sub-region entertains. It is cooler than the rest of the Moon Mountain sub-zone.

While Hanzell has seen a handful of winemakers and viticulturists since it’s late-1950s inception, most of all it has held consistency. Where there have been brief interludes of shifting style it has quickly returned to respect for the vineyard and house focus. Winemaker Bob Sessions, of course, carried defining influence on the winery but, just as much, the commitment of its family ownership, currently the part of the Brye family, to doing what it takes to keep such continuity has guided the style, not in an outside sense of ownership as much as an internal question of respect for the vineyard. Today, Michael McNeill serves as Director of Winemaking guiding the ship, so to speak, to respect the heritage Hanzell carries while continuing to seek perfection in small incremental improvements met over time. It’s a compliment to Sessions, the Bryes, and McNeill, as well as the founders – Zellerbach, Webb and the Day family – that Hanzell has such a strong signature to surpass any of its particular viticulturists, proprietors, or winemakers, an indication of how willing any of them are to act in service to the larger history of the site and house.

Today, Hanzell Chardonnay is known most of all for its palate stimulation and age-ability. The volcanic soils of the site create a particular sort of sapidity – lingering through the finish, tightening at the back of the mouth, dusty-iron-like in the finish – while also offering the opportunity for the winemaking to respect the opportunity for wines to age long in the bottle. The wines, as a result, generally, when young, require decanting to show what they may, while also evolving over not only hours but days. Most of all, what I appreciate about the Hanzell Chardonnays is not only that evolving character in the bottle and glass but also the mouthfeel, a sense of weight and viscidity that carries persistent presence and weft without heaviness or any cloying finish. The aged Hanzell I am sipping on now continues only to be a pleasure.

Recent History

Michael McNeill became winemaker in 2008. Within only a couple vintages after the winemaking team decided to reduce their new oak footprint on the wines to return closer to the house style of the late 1990s. The 2009 vintage is a wonderful example of the transition. In 2008, Hanzell Chardonnays were made with about 33% new barrel fermentation, with those barrels going through malolactic (ML) conversion and sur lie aging for 12 months. Afterwards, those barrel fermented Chardonnays were put to tank and aged for an additional 6 months in stainless steel. The remainder was tank fermented, without ML conversion, for 6 months, and then put down to older barrel for 12 months. After 18 months, both the barrel and tank fermented lots were blended.

In 2010, Hanzell decided to reduce the portion of barrel fermented Chardonnay to 25%, thereby effectively reducing the proportion of new oak, and also of ML fermented Chardonnay as well. As Michael explains, doing so brings the Chardonnay regimen closer to that of what Hanzell was doing in the 1990s at the height of its then-stature.

Today, Hanzell has also shifted to what it calls “thoughtful, integrative farming” utilizing biodynamic methods and relying on organic farming while focusing primarily on the health of the soil and the biodiversity of the farm – including 60 chickens, 4 American Guinea pigs, baby lambs and an edible garden.

Historic Vintages

A week ago I was able to taste three vintages with winemaker Michael McNeill – 2009, 2011 and 2013.

As Michael explains, the Hanzell Chardonnays are in high form from 5 to 8 years of age in bottle. They move into another phase of aging from 8 years on that takes on further depth and tertiary character while the fresh tension of youth also slowly falls away. In that 5 to 8 year window the fruits begin to show with a more savory and, on the palate, saline quality, with a wealth of subtlety. Hanzell Chardonnays continue to age well, depending on vintage, for as much as two decades.

2009

The 2009, as I taste it over several days, just keeps getting better with air. It’s initial richness and freshness are met by ever increasing energy and palate stimulation, a fantastic tension through the finish that is enlivening and hard to ignore. As it sits open the palate actually tightens and gains greater focus, losing some of the baby fat it has upon initial opening.

The 2009, at this point, is more developed and complicated than the 2011 with a savory element, a bit more breadth through the palate and especially the finish than the 2011, but that seems obvious in comparing the warmth of 2009 to the cold of 2011, even if the yields of 2009 were not terribly large compared to 2011. The 2009 has always been a well knit and structured wine, with a lot of balance to it inherently. There is a grand piano element to the 2009 – the nose gives hints of cedar and hand-rubbed metal string followed by a high tone, golden harmonic that strums through the palate with a long finish. The 2009 gives the complete harmony of high tone notes with the mid range and a deep tenor all together.

2011

Initially, the 2011 seems narrower both nose and palate, tightly focused, but at the same time feels more age worthy. The 2011 carries a real beam of acidity and pretty aromatic that will flesh out with a little air. The cold of 2011 served Chardonnay well and the wine will be among Hanzell’s long aging vintages but at the same time it has less breadth currently than other vintages right now. It has power of presence across the palate with concentration and length, most especially thanks to acidity, to last through age.

The palate of the 2011 is wonderfully savory and subtle while focused. The savory and subtle aspects across the nose call for both decanting and air, showing a faint petrol quality that, as Michael explains, is more commonly an indicator of a cooler vintage.

As it is, the 2011 Hanzell, as mentioned, will be one of their longest lived vintages and should be enjoyed with such longevity and accompanying freshness in mind.

2013

The 2013 vintage of Hanzell Chardonnay is immediately stimulating, both bright and impressive, a wine that demands attention while still fresh, bringing fruit notes and concentration from the natural power of the vintage.

The 2013 carries a particular mix of pure fruits alongside the signature savory component carrying the salty edge of cured meats through the finish in a refreshing way. There is a purity here that runs the full length of the palate with nice density through the mid palate. Delicious.

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

Terroir Translates to Tūrangawaewae at Pinot Noir NZ 2017
Elaine Chukan Brown

Maynard James Keenan speaking at Pinot Noir NZ

What do Tool front man, Maynard James Keenan, Hollywood actor of Jurassic Park fame Sam Neill, and the world’s most respected wine writer, Jancis Robinson MW, all have in common? They each offered keynote addresses to an audience of over 600 people from 20 countries at the recent three-day Pinot Noir NZ 2017 event. Wellington, at the southern end of New Zealand’s North Island, played host. Considered one of the top wine events in the world, wine professionals flew in from across the planet to attend alongside devoted consumers and the best of New Zealand’s own winemakers.

Celebrated every four years, Pinot Noir NZ brings a different theme integral to quality for the variety to the fore. This year’s focus brought another dimension of discussion as it moved beyond technical questions of winemaking or chemistry to instead consider the place from which any of us gain our strength via the Māori concept, Tūrangawaewae. In brief, it means simply a place to stand, but as one of the most revered Māori terms, Tūrangawaewae refers to the place where we feel empowered – the place to which we belong, just as it belongs to us. In a wine context, Tūrangawaewae offers a new way of recognizing what it means to understand the power of a vineyard respectfully farmed and the wine it can produce for the responsive winemaker. For many of the winemakers of Pinot Noir NZ, discussion of Tūrangawaewae offered a means to translate the French notion of terroir into a New Zealand context where respect for multi-cultural life proves central.

Outside of France, terroir remains one of the most readily misunderstood and misused notions in the world of wine. Often taken in the United States to refer only to the soil itself, discussions of terroir often fail to take into account the holistic site of a vineyard that includes not only its literal earth with its particular mineral makeup and drainage, but also its slope and aspect to the sun, its dynamic microclimate, and especially too the history of its viticulture through cultivars chosen, planting styles established, and the ongoing farmers’ interactions with the vine. Terroir as a concept includes the multifaceted and dynamic interaction of the natural conditions of a vineyard with the very human choices that create the history and potential of that site. Part of the power of the word terroir in a French context comes from the comparative stability of a culture with thousands of years of viticultural history; but how do we understand our own viticultural potential in wine cultures only decades old?

To keep reading this article, click through to the free-for-all NZ Dirt email. The rest of the article explores how the Maori concept of Tūrangawaewae offers a way to bring notions of terroir into a new world context and how New Zealand in particular has advanced these ideas through their intensive sustainability efforts. 

Here’s the link: http://www.nzwine.com/assets/Terroir%20Translates%20to%20Turangawaewae%20at%20Pinot%20Noir%20NZ%202017%20(Elaine%20Chukan%20Brown).pdf

The rest of the NZ Dirt newsletter is worth a look as well. Check it out (free-for-all) here: http://pro.sumo.co.nz/t/ViewEmail/r/09EC442CB0E32AE42540EF23F30FEDED/8B1A56CC56573E889E794568BD214575

 

Pinot Noir NZ 2017

Every four years winemakers from across New Zealand put together a three day event celebrating Pinot Noir. This year, Pinot Noir NZ 2017 took place in its host city of Wellington bringing together around 1000 guests total from 20 countries, including top wine professionals from each of those 20 countries, the best winemakers from around New Zealand and eager wine lovers from all over the world as well. Morning sessions focused on a series of talks and seminars, and after lunch (each designed by one of the top chefs of New Zealand or Australia), afternoons brought well-focused regional walk around tastings. By the end of the three days we’d heard from speakers that included some of the brightest in the New Zealand wine industry and a number of the world’s top wine professionals as well. In the evenings top chefs from New Zealand and Australia would serve dinner.

Pinot Noir NZ was truly one of the best wine events I have ever attended. It was impressively designed around a central theme that allowed for both focused and dynamic discussion considering the value of wine from multiple angles. There were technical seminars as well as more philosophical ones; tasting panels meant to make us reconsider how we experience wine and others that asked us to explore our own views of wine quality. The three days were designed around the Maori notion of Tūrangawaewae, a concept that captures the importance of place in how we gain, recognize, and gather our strength. Each of the three days then took a different theme for better understanding the value of Tūrangawaewae. I’ll be writing more about Tūrangawaewae later this week.

Day 1 revolved around the theme of Explore and opened with a Maori welcoming ceremony. International speakers for Pinot Noir NZ were asked to be part of the group being received by the local Maori tribes, and so to also participate in the ceremony on stage with the Maori elders and other tribes people. I was a speaker in this year’s Pinot Noir NZ, and so was asked to be part of the opening ceremony, to be a delegate received and greeted by the local Maori. It was an overwhelming and special experience. It was hard to believe the honor, that I was being asked to be part of such a sacred ceremony. The rest of the first day focused on speeches about the meaning, import and relevance to our thinking of wine in Tūrangawaewae, and then turned to understanding the value of each of the country’s growing regions before we then went to the regional tastings.

Day 2 considered the notion of Embrace and focused on tasting panels that gave us the chance to continue the conversation with wines there to help deepen the conversation. An international panel of wine experts selected wines and shared their views of greatness. The diversity of perspectives thanks to the international nature of the panel was inspiring. We were then put to a sound tasting by Jo Burzynska where Pinot noir was matched to different types of music as we explored how the varying sound types had very real impact on our tasting ability.

On Day 3 the focus was on how to Evolve and included a series of talks that asked where we are headed as not only as members of the wine community but also more broadly (wine lovers are always also part of the world at large after all), and so with that in mind, how to move forward. I was asked to give the closing speech for day 3 speaking to the question of future communication while also tying together threads from across the three days.

A number of people asked that once it was available I share my speech and its transcript here. So, now that I have both I am posting them as requested. Thank you to all of you that asked for this. I very much appreciate it.

As I mentioned, my speech refers to the conversations from across all three days of the event. Much of what is referenced will make sense in context. But to clarify a few things – the speech names a number of speakers from earlier in day 3 and references points they raised – Maynard James Keenan, Sam Neill, and Jancis Robinson are all mentioned. A few of them had also been joking about the relevance of their astrological signs, which is why I begin with explaining mine. I also mention Marcel Giesen, who spoke as part of the panel on greatness on day 2, and Nick Mills who spoke as part of the opening consideration of Tūrangawaewae on day 1. Also, on day 1, Rachel Tualelei, Ropata Taylor, and Dame Anne Salmond spoke on the history of the Maori, which is referenced near the beginning of my speech without naming them. In the beginning I refer to First Nations peoples. I am using that phrase to address the idea of first people to any particular region more generally. Such people are often referred to as indigenous (which I do also say here) but in some cases, such as the Maori of New Zealand, the people are not indigenous to that land but nevertheless were the first people of that land. I am using the phrase in that sense. In Canada, for example, the term First Nations has a more specific reference to a particular group there in Canada so I mention that here to clarify I am using the phrase more broadly. It is apparent in the context of the speech.

The other speeches shared online are also worth watching. The people named above whose speeches are available online I have linked to  – click on their name and it will take you to the video of their talk. The link to all available speeches (including regional overview videos from the event) are available here: https://vimeo.com/pinotnoirnz 

Thank you most especially to the board of Pinot Noir NZ for inviting me to speak, and to Rachael Fletcher for so seamlessly guiding everything, to Mike Bennie for suggesting me, and to David Strada for inviting me to New Zealand. Thank you to James Tidwell and David Keck for so patiently letting me talk through aspects of my talk before hand. Your friendship makes all the difference.

Here is the video of the speech. It’s transcript immediately follows it.

Day 3 Elaine Chukan Brown from Pinot Noir NZ on Vimeo.

Future Communication: Pinot Noir NZ
Elaine Chukan Brown

So I want to get out of the way right away that I am a Tiger in the Chinese zodiac. That’s the terrestrial parallel to Maynard’s Dragon – totally tenacious, claws the shit out of everything to get where it’s going, full commitment, looks good in stripes. Right?

I’m also a double Virgo. Virgos are known for devotion. They’re defined by love, and most especially service. So, whatever they do, they do out of love, and total commitment to excellence. But then I have a Sagittarius moon, which means that whatever I do, I do with my hair on my fire, and I thank my daughter for making sure that it looks like it is.

It is an incredible honor to be part of an event that so completely honors and speaks from the position of the First Nations people of the country that’s hosting it. As some of you know, I am Inuit from Alaska, and the terrible truth is that First Nations in the United States are barely even recognized for still existing. And so I live my daily life interacting with people unable to see who I am. And so to be here, and to have been asked to be part of the opening ceremony, finding connection, communion, companionship between the First Nations people of New Zealand and all of us that are here to speak about Pinot noir, and all of the other wonderful things we’ve been speaking about, was completely overwhelming.

But in acknowledgement of that, I wish to introduce myself to you as I would if I was speaking with my Native community in Alaska. I actually called my mother yesterday to ask for permission to speak today, and for permission to say my Native name, which in Alaskan communities is private, as a way of sort of preserving what’s most valued for us. Obviously, I’m not going to worry about it if I’m crying, so you’ll just all have to deal with it.

My maternal great-grandparents are Paul and Anna Chukan of Bristol Bay, Alaska. My grandparents are Gordon and Anisha McCormick. My paternal great-grandparents are Stephen and Amelia Ivanoff, of Norton Sound, Alaska. My grandmother is Emily Ivanoff Ticasuk Brown. My parents are Mel and Katherine Brown. I am Unangan and Iñupiaq. That is Aleut and Inuit from Alaska. My name is Elaine Chukan Arnaqiaq Brown. My daughter is Rachel Marie Williams.

For indigenous peoples across the planet, our ancestors, our people, define who we are. I am my ancestors. But also for indigenous peoples across the planet, what are ancestors are is our land, the place from which we come. So to speak with you today is overwhelming because I bring them with me.

My great-grandfather, I was lucky enough to know growing up, and he was born at a time, in a place so remote, that he saw the first waves of outside people enter his region. And he would tell me stories about the first time he saw someone from China, the first time he saw a black person, the first time he heard a radio, the first time electricity appeared in the region. When the wars came. His region was part of the front lines of World War II, which of course brought more outsiders.

As an indigenous person in Alaska, he was denied the rights of citizenship until the second half of the last century, when Alaska finally became a state. And especially in light of Jancis’s insight about recent global politics, what I would like to offer – I hadn’t expected to – but what I would like to offer is the recognition of the strength, the resilience, and the incredible transforming power that he took to every aspect of his life. And if you could imagine a life lived, to survive such radical transformation as I just mentioned …

As a quick side note, to get across how bad-ass this man I grew up with was – he actually killed a bear with a spruce tree that he cut down, cut the bows off, and made a sharp tip on because he lived in Alaska at a time before guns. Totally hardcore.

But anyway, my point being – imagine a person that could remain utterly true to himself, utterly clear in his values, utterly persistent and determined that in all of that change of which he had no control of, he would be the best version of himself, and he would do it for the sake of his people and his family, and generations of people he would never meet.

I want to speak briefly about a kind of indigenous ethics that’s implied in what I’m saying, because I think it really ties in to a lot of the values that have been expressed here: notions of sustainability; the wonderful talk we heard here on the first day from Nick at Rippon and that experience of trying to honor the land and instill value across generations. For indigenous peoples, for myself being here today, my most central project, regardless of anything else I am doing, my most central project is to act in a way that loves people I will never meet so that I may honor those that made my life possible.

Some of you have heard this in terms of thinking in seven generations. We thank seven generations back whose lives brought us here, by acting for the sake of seven generations forward, many of whom we’ll never know.

When I asked my mom permission to speak with you today, she emphasized the point that she can’t help but think of my great-grandfather, who raised her, and that there’s a sense in which I’ve brought him here – a man who grew up so differently than everyone here. He’s come to New Zealand now. And speaking to Sam’s point about the unlikely, how incredibly unlikely is it for all of you to have to listen to an Inuit woman from Alaska talk about her great-grandfather in the middle of a Pinot noir conference.

But the unlikelihood runs far deeper than that. It’s unlikely that he even lived long enough to make my life possible. We heard on the first day about the struggles of the Maori people. It’s a struggle that is utterly consistent with indigenous peoples all over the planet. And the idea that any First Nations are still alive and vibrantly breathing and clearly present here with all of you is a miracle. And so for me, in thinking how do I love my future descendants and honor those who came before me, that’s what I carry in everything I do. It is a miracle that I am here, and it is no thanks to me that that is true, and it is little thanks to me that anything I have done might have significance. It is totally, absolutely, because of the miracle of people that worked so hard to be resilient.

And what I want to offer is that this is a gift that any of us can have. I am profoundly aware of it because of my particular heritage and background and the way that I was raised, but part of what we’ve been talking about and part of what this whole program has so intensely tried to instill in each of us is that we have to fucking care about what we do, right? And what’s to come. And again, it’s because of caring for people that we will never meet. And the way that we can do that is to seek in every single step excellence in what we do.

Just like Marcel said yesterday, “Quality comes slowly over time, a step at a time.” And this morning we heard – I can’t remember now who said it – but the idea that perfection is a lot of little steps done well. That’s what I’m speaking to. We all have that opportunity.

In terms of how that shows up, I want to speak briefly – some of you heard yesterday, I apologize, but I am a recovering philosopher, and again, like alcoholism you deal with it every day. So, I wanted to use that as a background that I have to just very briefly speak about the idea of expertise because part of the struggle, I think, we face now in a world that is so full of uncertainty is this grief for the loss of the expert. Any of us in this room, because we’re of drinking age, were born into a time where the expert guided how the world moved, and decisions were made very much in a top-down model. People devoted themselves to intricate, thorough-going study, and that information would trickle out to the rest of us. So it was very much a top-down, triangular model.

And what’s happened now is the proliferation of information, thanks to the Internet and Jancis is largely to blame for us wine-lovers, right, through so many brilliant reference books. With that proliferation of information, that triangle has flattened and spread. And we’ve created a kind of horizontaling of information sharing. And, with that, it becomes very difficult to see where the expert remains.

This will tie back to the bear hunting and things like that, by the way, just so you know …

So in this grief of loss of the expert, it’s unclear what the expert’s role is anymore. And so briefly, I just wanted to ask – what is an expert? Clearly the accessed information, even the creation of information as we study the world and learn more about it is paramount there. But with this proliferation of information, there’s a way in which that’s kind of the part we’ve lost. Everyone has access to a database, so a lot of the questions you hear about the loss of the expert come back to, “Well why do I need that person? I can look it up on Google.”

But what remains is an intimacy with the information, an understanding – how do I interpret this? How do I recognize what’s valuable? How do I know it’s pertinent to now, to what I need to know now? And so that sense of intimacy we still desperately need from experts; we see all sorts of political bad decisions happening and it’s because people don’t know how to interpret properly the kind of information that they are being inundated with. We still need that kind of help. But part of what goes along with this – the way people become experts that are relevant is that we trust them. They’re reliable. We believe them. What they say makes sense. We feel a connection.

Now studies of Millennial consumer groups done recently have shown interesting buying patterns. And I’m actually not interested in talking about Millennials, except that I think because of when they were born, they come onto the scene as this shift from triangle to horizontal is happening. And so they’re, in a way, the purest expression of the impact of that change in information society.

So what we’ve seen studying Millennials’ consumer habits and interests is that advertising has almost no effect. Millennial populations, again, in these surveys, have said only one percent of the respondents actually make a purchase based on advertising that they see, whether it’s on television, or in print, or online. Instead, what they’re doing is turning to companions, to actual people around. And they’re doing this very much online, through various online sources – blogs, and various types of social media.

But when you dig deeper into this, and this links back to the other points I’ve been making – when you dig deeper into this, what you find is that what they’re searching for is intimacy and connection. And it is that that makes people respond. And it is from that that leads to people changing their minds, finding what they care about, learning to recognize who they are, and making purchases as well.

This obviously is relevant to a lot of the people in the room who are vintners, and are interested in figuring out how the heck to get people to buy a bottle of their wine. Well, it’s not advertising, which respondents said feels as if they’re being sold something. It’s too pat. It’s too formulaic. And it feels like being tricked or manipulated. And so instead what they’re responding to is someone they feel a connection to, that they can trust and believe, and think, “Oh, I recognize something of myself in them; if they like it, I must too.”

And so what’s happened is that we’ve come into a very peculiar time, where our own individual particularity, our very specific commitments, the exact thing we care about, and the ways that we express those things, are the most relevant in terms of how we recognize who we want to believe, what we want to buy, how we want to communicate.

Duncan actually asked me to speak on future communication. There is no one in this room that knows what this means, and so I worked through it in this way: what I want to suggest is that the future of communication starts in what I’m describing. We desperately still need people to risk the life of the expert; to commit so thoroughly to what they do that their life and its legacy, as Maynard referenced, reverberates beyond them to people they will never meet. Some currently alive now, and others that simply come down the road, generations away. We desperately need that.

But what I’m suggesting is that we all have the opportunity to do that now. Everyone in this room can choose that life. Nick is so fortunate, as he expressed on Tuesday, to have been born into a circumstance like his at Rippon, and he’s doing an incredible job at honoring that, and carrying that forward. And that is fantastic to see. But very many of us don’t have that situation, right. So what do we do? How do we translate that model into something we can claim?

And what I’m saying is that if we recognize that we’re all looking, now, in the midst of this chaotic world, with this mass proliferation of information that we all struggle to interpret, we recognize that we’re looking for communication, connection, and intimacy. And we seek to act in excellence, to cultivate that in very small ways, in every little moment that we do – and share that openly. We can’t expect that benefits of the old top-down model anymore; reverence doesn’t come in the way it used to, for those of us who give ourselves to lifelong projects. Many people get attention very quickly, right? But connection and intimacy is greater than that. And the satisfaction instead comes from knowing that in committing to that excellence and acting from service, our effect can reverberate out in ways we cannot even predict.

With that in mind, I really want to thank David Strada for inviting me to New Zealand. It’s been a remarkable trip. I know Mike Bennie was kind enough to kind of pester Duncan and Ben about me, and I really appreciate that, too. But most of all, I thank Duncan and Ben for inviting me to speak today.

You have allowed me to bring my family here, and to make real something that my great-grandfather was open enough to know not in any specific way could happen, but that if he did well by his family, by his people, and in every act he took, that those that came after him could surpass anything he imagined, and arrive eventually, on a country he barely knew was real.

What I’m describing might seem a little alien, perhaps. But I just want to ask each of us to consider very simple questions, and to ask them of ourselves again and again and again, and even sometimes every step: what do you want to love? How can you be of service today? How will you exemplify excellence in any small thing you do?

Thank you.

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Redwoods & Isolated Ridges
Elaine Chukan Brown

that’s me in cartoon thanks to Wine & Spirits Magazine

A few years ago, a 2007 Anthill Farms pinot noir from Peters Vineyard in western Sonoma shocked me with its energetic combination of earthy depth and high-toned aromas. That, I think, is when I really caught the Sonoma Coast bug. Since then, I’ve visited Sonoma’s coastal vineyards again and again, hoping to better understand the intricacies of these mountains.

The west Sonoma coast fascinates me partially because of the unique growing conditions of every site. From the steep, redwood-dense slopes of the north, mere meters away from the Mendocino border, to the exposed high-elevation peaks of Fort Ross–Seaview, all the way south to the fog-dripped slopes near Freestone and Occidental, each vineyard feels like its own isolated sovereignty. Thanks to the ruggedness of the region, many vineyards grow in remote reaches of the mountains out of sight of any other. Most of all, my fascination stems from the way this region’s pinot noirs express that diversity.

Sonoma’s coastal range draws a line between the warmer inland temperatures of the county on one side and the cold Pacific air mass on the other. Canyons and low points in between allow fog and cool air to sneak into the inland side of the county. Those two forces—the warmth of the continent and the chill of the ocean—interact to create unique microclimates tucked into the folds of the mountains.

The San Andreas Fault also contributes to the region’s viticultural diversity. The mountains here formed over millennia as the Pacific and continental plates crashed against each other, creating a complicated mineral quilt: shale and sandstone sometimes reduced to a powdery topsoil, volcanic rocks, and incursions of serpentine, quartz, greenstone and chert.

It’s a complex region. The six wines below only begin to scratch the surface, but they’ve become some of my most reliable signposts.

The Cool Southlands

The Freestone Valley—a particularly cool spot in the coast range—sits just north of the low valley of the Petaluma Gap. Here, vineyards are often inundated with dense fog and cold temperatures even in…

To continue reading, head on over to Wine & Spirits Magazine’s website where the article is available to read for free. As it continues it gives an overview on the unique growing conditions of Sonoma’s coastal mountains and also describes six wines that help understand the region. 

Here’s the link to the article: http://www.wineandspiritsmagazine.com/news/entry/sonoma-coast-pinot-noir-redwoods-isolated-ridges

3

The Innovation & Quality Conference 

Cyril Penn opening IQ

The annual IQ (Innovation & Quality) Conference happened in St Helena last week bringing together wineries from all over the Western United States with suppliers of cork, barrels, screw caps, and other materials needed in making wine. Central to the conference is a trials tasting tent in which vintners from the West coast United States share winemaking trials – the results, the insights gained, any pertinent data, and the wines themselves to taste. Trials range from side-by-side experiments on cellar techniques such as differing lengths of extended maceration alongside straight to press wines from the same fruit, or extended aging in different types of vessels, to vineyard trials such as side-by-side clonal tastings on Pinot noir, or side-by-side tastings of the same clone grown in different soil types. If you time it right, you can spend the whole day just attending a series of trial tastings of this sort.

In addition to the trials tent there are also a series of discussion sessions, some with wine to illustrate, some without. The sessions are great because as hard core wine-geek-fest as the tasting trials are, hearing the most current innovations in wine technology or knowledge from the world’s top experts on whatever the particular matter is just does not get old. I got to attend both a session on the most current advances in cork quality as well as a session on tracking phenolic make up in Cabernet Sauvignon from the vineyard into the winery and through to bottling. It was awesome.

Advances in Cork Quality

Miguel Cabral of Amorim Cork

The Cork Quality session was rather mind blowing. In the last two years two cork suppliers – Amorim Cork and Cork Supply USA – have developed technology that has made it possible for them to release natural cork guaranteed to be TCA free. The implications of that advancement alone are mind boggling for the global wine industry. The technology is equally impressive.

Miguel Cabral of Amorim Cork came from Portugal to present to attendees about their ND Tech system. Corks guaranteed to be TCA free thanks to ND Tech are now available in the United States. Producers of premium wines in the United States have begun bottling wines with the guaranteed corks. From what I heard wines from both the 2014 and 2015 vintages have been bottled using the ND Tech corks depending on the vintner’s aging regime prior to bottling. Three producers – Jennifer Williams of Arrow & Branch, Jennifer Rue of Invisible Hand Winemaking, and Andy Erickson of Favia Wines – each have bottled some wines with the ND Tech guaranteed corks. The session included a winemaker panel of these three producers giving their thoughts briefly on the advantages of natural cork over other closure types, while David Ramey of Ramey Wines also spoke in favor of DIAM. Some of his thoughts are included here in the final section on Implications of the new guaranteed corks.

Greg Hirson of Cork Supply USA shared information about their DS100+ system, which is also able to produce corks guaranteed to be free of TCA.

TCA Studies

Peter Weber of the Cork Quality Council spoke briefly about advances in cork quality, sharing our current knowledge of TCA in preparation for us to then hear the most current innovations as seen in ND Tech and DS100+.

As Peter explained, TCA in cork is one of the issues in the wine industry that we know the most about thanks largely to on going research done by ETS. The original, groundbreaking study on TCA was done 18 years ago. Results from that original study transformed how we dealt with cork and led to massive reductions in instances of TCA in wine.

Prior to that 18-year old study, understanding of TCA testing was a simple binary system. Cork was recognized as either good or bad but most testing was done prior to the cork getting wet. Such tests were based entirely on human nose detection so recognition of the chemical was extremely limited and unreliable. An entirely new method of testing TCA was developed as a result of the 18-year old study that led to a huge leap in accuracy. Additionally, we learned more insight on the relationship between cork and wine, better realizing how TCA was released into wine specifically because it had gotten wet – that is, it is not enough to check a dry cork as TCA is released over time from the cork becoming wet – which transformed our understanding of quality control in the bottling and storage process as well.

Since 2001 new quality control programs on cork production and use have been in place leading to TCA levels today being 96% lower than they were in 2001. (Again, mind blowing.)

Peter clarified too that in studies on cork quality TCA is understood as a specific chemical contaminant in cork. In a general wine context many wine professionals refer to cork taint in general as TCA, when in actuality there are other forms of cork taint besides TCA. Other types of cork taint more generally depend on cork cleanliness rather than the specific chemical presence of TCA. High quality cork producers, then, implement cork steaming procedures that can remove other forms of cork taint while preserving the cork’s structural integrity. TCA cannot be removed in this way, however, and instead TCA infected corks must simply be discarded from use in wine and instead used for other purposes such as cork tile or board.

ND Tech

Miguel Cabral of Amorim presented their ND Tech system, which has already begun supplying guaranteed corks to the United States wine market. As Miguel clarified, most recent work on improving cork quality has revolved around eliminating TCA. For vintners, TCA serves as ground zero in storage issues. The goal is to eliminate it in cork so that more sophisticated aspects of cork quality can be studied instead. Both Miguel and Greg Hirson of Cork Supply USA, for example, agreed that now that they have successfully created technology to eliminate concerns of TCA in cork research, resources can now be directed to our better understanding oxygen transfer rates of cork in order to also better understand wine aging.

The ND Tech system has been developed over several years using equipment that tests each individual cork for TCA. Today, ND Tech equipment is able to verifiably guarantee that TCA levels in any particular cork are below 0.5 nanograms per liter. Human ability to detect TCA has a threshold of 2 nanograms per liter. So, ND Tech effectively guarantees any screened corks will have no detectable TCA.

To guarantee the ND Tech system’s effectiveness Amorim created several internal cross-checking procedures but they also had the system sent internationally so it could be verified by third-party studies. Both the Australian Wine Institute and Hochschule Geisenheim University found the system to be 100% effective.

Currently, in 2017, ND Tech is able to screen 42 million corks per year. That number will continue to increase as the testing rate is dependent only on the number of ND Tech screening machines they have in place.

DS100+

Greg Hirson, the Director of Tech Services for Cork Supply USA, shared the technology behind their DS100+ system, which also tests corks to guarantee they will be TCA free. The DS100+ technology is utterly distinct from that of ND Tech but both have the same final result of guaranteed corks with TCA levels below 0.5 nanograms per liter.

The DS100+ technology was finalized slightly later than ND Tech and so currently Cork Supply USA is able to verify 20 million corks per year. Again, that number will increase as it depends only on the number of machines they have in place.

Greg did a great job at helping to make sense of what it means to say that any single cork will have less than 0.5 nanograms per liter. He walked us through extensive calculations to ultimately show that 0.5 nanograms per liter of TCA in any one cork is actually equivalent to being able to guarantee there will be not even a single fruit fly in a 40 acre vineyard. Did you catch that? NOT EVEN A SINGLE FRUIT FLY IN A 40 ACRE VINEYARD. (AGAIN, MIND BLOWING.) Even more impressively though, it is also equivalent to being able to screen for and eliminate that metaphorical fruit fly in less than 20 seconds, as the DS100+ technology works that quickly.

Implications

While screw cap made huge improvements in the world of wine in terms of radically reducing TCA, and certainly in eliminating TCA caused by closure, screw cap closures also have their own issues including bottle reduction and changes in aging from lack of oxygen exchange. It isn’t always ideal for a wine to barely evolve for years in bottle. Various adjustments in screw cap technology have been made to address these issues.

Synthetic or conglomerate corks are also a reasonable option in many cases. Since the focus of the session was on guaranteed natural corks there was not extensive consideration of synthetic corks. However, the winemaker panel did include some consideration of DIAM corks. David Ramey explained that he has done his own winery trials considering screw caps, vino lock glass closures, a range of synthetic cork types, various natural corks and DIAM. Today he uses all DIAM type closures across his wines, adjusting the DIAM quality level to quality needs for wine type. As he explained, in his view, OTR, or oxygen exchange rate, is the most important part of cork (or closure) quality as it allows proper aging of wines. When a bad cork prevents a wine from reaching its full aging potential we tend to treat it as if the wine has gone bad, when in reality it is that the wine had a bad closure. The inconsistent density and structure of natural cork works against standardizing expectations for such a closure. DIAM, on the other hand, is made to deliver expected levels of structural integrity and so OTR can be better expected as well. While David admits DIAM may not be the only solution he turns to in the long run, currently he has found it to be the best option.

For those reliant on natural corks, it isn’t clear that every wine needs a cork guaranteed to be free of TCA. Different wine types and different wine markets have very different needs. It might make more sense for wines bottled to drink the same year they are released to be bottled under screw cap, for example. Or, it might simply make sense for less expensive wines to be bottled under standard cork. The risk of small portions of TCA might be economically reasonable on less expensive wine.

Guaranteed TCA free cork does, however, make a lot of sense for premium wines expected to sell at higher prices. Public perception still prefers cork for fine wines, for example. Additionally, premium wines tend to be made from more structural varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Nebbiolo that benefit from oxygen exchange in bottle loosely speaking. Additional cost (which, unfortunately, I don’t have the details on for these corks) can be more readily absorbed in premium wines and there is also far more to lose from a bad cork on expensive wines even if it is a relatively low percentage of TCA. Additionally, such producers gain the advantage of eliminating the cost of back up bottles when sending samples to distributors or writers.

Post update: the article has been edited to add additional comments on reasons to consider DIAM cork. 

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

 

 

Making Vermouth:
How one winemaker turned “failure” into a successful product

Elaine Chukan Brown

winemaker Dan Petroski

VERMOUTH TENDS TO BE thought of as an apt blender in a martini—a second thought to making a fine cocktail. Its history as a modern beverage dates back to the 1800s and is celebrated on its own, as well, and as an integral part of a robust food and wine culture in Europe. Recently, the beverage has gained some notoriety as part of the craft spirits boom in the United States. Small-batch vermouth has cropped up across the continent with domestic examples appearing from wine regions in New York, Oregon, California and elsewhere.

In Napa, Massican Winery’s vermouth has become a beloved staple of the wine-geek community and has found its way into bars in California and New York. Massican owner and winemaker Dan Petroski brought his love for Italian culture, food and wine to making his dry, white wine-focused brand. Several years ago, however, a mishap in the cellar led to him adding dry vermouth to the portfolio.

As Petroski explains, as an aromatized wine, vermouth offers an interesting opportunity for the vintner unsure of what to do with a less desirable wine.

Wine Mishaps

“The vermouth started out as a trial with Tocai,” Petroski said. “The vermouth was never meant to be. It was purely a wine trial, but in failure we saw an opportunity.”

Though the white wine variety Tocai Friulano has been legally renamed Friulano to avoid international naming confusion, it is still affectionately referred to simply as Tocai in Northeastern Italy. In Friuli, Friulano is one of the signature grapes of the region. In California, Petroski has been able to work with hundred-year-old vines of the cultivar first established by Italian immigrants farming the variety for their own use. Such fruit serves as an integral component of Massican’s flagship white blend, the Annia. It also ended up providing the base for his vermouth.

In working with Friulano for Annia, Petroski wanted to investigate different methods of clarifying the juice prior to fermentation, but the trial led to an off-wine.

“Tocai is a very reductive variety,” Petroski said. “It is important to clarify the juice prior to fermentation in order to ensure clean aromas and flavors. We wanted to test this process. After whole-cluster pressing the Tocai to tank, we mixed the tank and immediately barreled down one barrel—55 gallons—of wine. We cold settled the juice at 50° F for two days and racked off the clean wine. The remaining heavy lees and sediment…

To keep reading this article turn to the February issue of Wine Business MonthlyThe rest of the article looks at Dan’s process in formulating his own vermouth, the basic process for making your own vermouth, and key lessons Dan thinks anyone wanting to experiment should keep in mind.

In the print edition the article appears on page 118. However, you can also view it for free online by either downloading the entire February issue as PDF, or using their online click book option. The article appears on page 118 in each of the electronic versions as well. 

Here’s the link to download the February issue or use the click book: 

https://www.winebusiness.com/wbm/?go=getDigitalIssue&issueId=9023

 

0

Marlborough

with Lauren Eads on a boat heading to Waterfall Bay

Marlborough turned out to be one of my favorite parts of our travels through New Zealand. The diversity of wine styles with good quality available on the ground there was both surprising and inspiring as I was able to find stand out wines of Chardonnay, Pinot, Syrah, Methode Traditionelle, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and, yes, Sauvignon Blanc. What is available from Sauvignon there in Marlborough covers a far more significant range than we have any idea of here in the US market. Our selection here is far more limited.

While there is something very old school country about the central parts of Marlborough in its feel, the region also holds unbelievable beauty. Here’s the Instagram collection from our time on the ground in Marlborough.

Surprise pleasure of the trip so far – Impressive tasting on Methode Traditionelle wines from Methode Marlborough. All made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay in blend or individually, aged at least 18 months on lees though most shown here much longer. Wines from left: Daniel Le Brun Rosé NV, Tobu Rewa Reserve Blanc de Noir 2012, Johanneshof Cellars 2008 EMMI Brut, Nautilus Cuvée Brut NV, Hunter’s MiruMiru Reserve 2011, Spy Valley 2011 Echelon, Huia Blanc de Blancs 2010, Allan Scott Cecilia Vintage, No 1 Family Estate Virginia Cuvée. A range of styles here but good quality and pleasure through each of the wines. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa @hunterswinesnz @huia_vineyards @nautilusestate @tohuwines @spyvalleywine @johanneshofwine @allanscottwines @no1familyestate @methodemarlborough

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Nice to see the elegance that develops in aged Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. A much broader range of styles showing through a large regional tasting of current and library releases of the variety than what appears in the United States. Here one of the stand-outs: the Catalina Sounds, Sounds of White, 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough’s Waihopai Valley, made only in large oak foudre to bring texture with minimal flavor influence, bottled after six months. Nice subtlety with notes of rose leaf, elderflower and pleasing delicate green accents. Delicate and subtle with still persistent palate stimulation through a long finish. Nicely done. Really pleasing example in the 2015 release as well. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa @catalinasounds

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Oh heck YES. Get your neck on one of these. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa @zephyrwine

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Oh thank the lord god I am on a boat. Marlborough Sounds heading to Waterfall Bay. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

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To read more on beautiful stand out examples of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2017/01/27/the-pleasing-surprise-of-marlborough-sauvignon-blanc/

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