Profundities, Prose and Postulations
Wine, of course, like anything organic, will scavenge and eventually succumb to oxidation however slowly infused. Proper oxidation coupled with the attendant esterification whether it be through the pores of oak or cork, is truly the finishing step in fine winemaking. Only the best natural corks permit the proper oxidation rate. All cork is not created equal and not all wines benefit from oxidation. Classic Rieslings for instance, are made in the reductive style. Many domestics and imports of all price ranges now undergo the expedient mechanical “micro-ox” process before bottling. If properly controlled oxidation is indeed inconsequential, there would not now be so many “screw-off” manufacturers engineering porous liners for their closures to make them perform ‘more like cork’. The principles of oxidation/reduction apply which is not to say one cannot prefer one to the other. After nearly 50 years of making my own mistakes and trying to not make the same one more than twice, I can tell you that natural cork and metal/plastic closures make for very different wines.
Then, again, one has to care about that sort of thing.
Ray, I have a story for you.
I have met two women recently, on separate days. Although their differences are striking, they share a surprising commonality.
I have encountered the first woman on several occasions and the experience has been the same each time. She is tall and dark, with an air of gravitas that makes you hesitate to approach her. She is beautiful, without question, but in an athletic way, with angular, almost boney features, that suggest a very active physical life. I get the feeling her past may have been difficult. Once approached, she is somewhat aloof initially. She is not rude in any sense, just reserved, private. It takes a great deal of coaxing to draw her out. There is no short-cut here. Patience is essential. But there is something about her beyond her obvious beauty that is intriguing. Mystery, perhaps. A feeling that there is a great deal more beneath the surface. By the end of the evening, if you are tenacious, she begins to share a bit of herself, a small smile suggesting the walls are starting to crumble. If you are lucky enough to see her again the next day, there is a dramatic transformation. She is much more open, greets you warmly as if you were old friends, and begins to share some of the delicious complexities that her fascinating mind contains. She is, in short, a marvelous and unique treasure, both alluring and challenging.
I met the second woman only recently. For some reason, I expected her to be quite similar to the first. Perhaps it was because they both are tall, dark and breathtakingly gorgeous. But where the first woman was angular, the second is rounder and soft. Less athlete, more starlet. Her smile illuminates the room and she smiles constantly. Hers was the perfect, happy childhood. She affects us all the same way: we are immediately attracted to her. Her beauty and charm are intoxicating. After just a few minutes, you feel as if you’ve known her for years. She is truly a pleasure to meet. An evening with her is a special gift, like an unexpected present received without cost or effort.
So you can imagine that I was taken aback to learn these two dark beauties are sisters, almost twins really. Born one year apart to the same parents. How they became such completely opposite adults is a mystery that I would love to solve.
So, Ray, Dr. Frankenstein to these two lovely ladies, tell me. Can you guess to which of your vinous offspring I refer? Will you solve the mystery of their differences for me?
Paul Richard McCullough, President
MACRO Consulting, Inc.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
After 27 years as judge for the prestigious Orange County Fair Wine Competition in California, I do have some observations.
The OCFWC is not a concensus judging. The five jurists per panel are asked to score each/all wines and also recommend (or not recommend) a medal. The scores and recommendations are then weighted/averaged by an objective external awards committee. It's a clean system wherein strong opinions do not drown others during the tasting. It is not, however, without flaws.
Problematic to this competition (and all wine competitions in general) is the spectre of personal bias which is not at all the same thing as personal experience or skill. If the apple pies or roses at their respective competitions were to be judged as we do wines, Mom's pie and Grandma's roses would always be the marque.... whether they were actually entered or not.
Judges bring with them the illusion of the perfect wine (usually one of their own or "Chenin Blanc cannot ever be of gold medal quality because Chardonnay is the best"). I argue that a wine competition is supposed to be about those who have gone to the time and expense of entering the competition and not some phantom product which has, more than likely, morphed over time.
If there are three wines (or pies or roses) in a given class and none are flawed then there must be a Gold, a Silver and a Bronze winner no matter the judges' biased style preference or convoluted taste memory. Consequently, it is not reasonable, fair nor accurate to have a class where any medals are given (can be no flaws) and have no gold medal or blue ribbon awarded.
Absent personal ego, the best wine, pie or rose on the table that day is, by definition, the Blue or the Gold by definition and default. What is frequently lost on most wine judges is that they are not there to judge against their personal opinion of the world’s best but only among those wines which actually showed up.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary.
Henry David Thoreau
"Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well-wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor;--let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children's liberty. Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap-let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges;--let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;--let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars."
Abraham Lincoln, age 28, The Lyceum Address 1838 Springfield, Illinois
2000 Fait Accompli Review (April 2006):
Don't know the last time you tasted a 2000 but here's how it was doing this evening. Bought by a gentleman that just moved into the area ($125.00).
Decanted at 7:15pm my tasting notes from 9:00pm.
-Cork perfect, no runs with only a mere >1mm of soak, looks as though the cork could go another 25+ years.
- Sediment crusting over 50% of bottle with quite a bit loose. - Color showing a touch of age but still very saturated and only a slight bricking at the edges but the center still showing solid garnet.
- From a distance rather intense even out of white wine glass mostly dark floral and some dark berry character. In the glass a lot of dried cherry, toasty cola nut with slight hints of Cinnamon/Nutmeg and light dusty wood and leather.
- In the mouth showing some aged Merlot plumy character with levels of dark berries. Finish goes a while keeping very good focus but turns surprisingly savory half way through. Tannins still prevelant, but certainly enough fruit to keep it from becoming any where near drying out.
I'd still give this one 5 to 6 more years for some sort of peak. (6 bottles left in our cellar).
Oh ya - he loved it.s
Interestingly, all Viognier wines made from physiologically ripe grapes hint of some pear, pineapple, melon and tropical fruits. Trouble is, when Viognier is at a proper maturity for developing these organoleptic sensations the pH goes to hell, there is enzymatic browning and the sugars are so high that the resultant alcohol is offensive or out of balance at best.
Valdiguie, on the other hand, can hang on the vine until November and not develop more than about a 21.5 Brix. It retains its titratable acidity and the pH is a predictable 3.3 or so. By whole cluster pressing off just the white juice, we can maintain these numbers which so nicely complement the wonderfully aromatic yet flabby and alcoholic Viognier. We'd rather do this than adulterate the wine with chemical adjustments and water. Valdiguie itself contributes expressions of lemon and slightly under-ripe strawberry to the mix.
Were that not enough, we barrel ferment the stuff to dryness in brand new European Sessile Oak barrels which wraps the whole package in a vanilla and nut spice.
Kind of makes it sound like a Waldorf Salad, doesn't it?
Three bottles picked up at the winery would cost $48 (a bargain at $16 the bottle including tax).
In answer to your question about spitting, wine judging and satiated palates:
Since organoleptic sensation is 90% (est) smell, we thoroughly smell everything first. If your lip isn't hanging over the edge of the glass with your proboscis inside, you are not smelling thoroughly. Anything with an off-character isn't going to medal so why taste it? Happily these days, there are fewer wines eliminated in this first step as winemaking is pretty much an exact science. Thank God there is still an art component to keep it interesting and alive. The smell step also guides the judge toward his/her quality and interest categorization. Here's where, in "professionally" judged competitions, it falls apart. The current "cookie cutter cadre" of recurring faces at many competitions find objectivity an illusive if not personally offensive tool. The late wine scribe and visionary, Jerry D. Mead would school (usually to little avail) each of his judges before a competition that "If it's the best Chenin Blanc on the table and has no flaws, it's a gold". Jerry was alluding to the judges' historically biased propensity for awarding multiple gold medals in the Chardonnay class but none to the "lesser grapes".
Even more handicapped are the lazy and/or effete judges who gravitate toward their own comfortable taste preferences ignoring the validity of outstanding wines within a class made in divergent styles. For instance, cannot Zinfandel be exceptional in the Beaujolais/Joven, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Late Harvest, Port, Sparkling, Rose, and Blanc de Noir styles. We all have our idea of what typifies "Zinfandel" or Cabernet Sauvignon, etc. I call this affliction "Paradigm Paralysis" and there seems to be no cure short of lobotomy. How can any competition claim credibility and a unique placement in a crowded world of wines when they all use substantially the same palate pool?
Saving us all will be the new crop of bright minds and pristine palates we now see infiltrating the sage ranks of wine writing, wine making and wine competitions.
Yes, we sniff, spit and hope not to dribble. How professional would that look? RK
"It is never possible to write much about rose' wines. A rose' wine is neither white nor red; it is a hybrid like a mule. It can develop none of the characteristics of a great white or a great red wine. A 'great rose' is an absurd phrase, there is no such thing. If a connoisseur uses it, he is either drunk or has shares in a company selling the bottle." Raymond Postgate, 'Portuguese Wine' Aldine Press 1969
Ray Krause started hauling hoses in the cellars of Fresno's Roma Winery as "Fermentation Control Specialist" in 1964. It was the year after his enrollment in the Oenology degree program at Fresno State College(now CSUF) which was facilitated by a scholarship from the original San Joaquin Valley Wine Growers Association. After completing his studies and a three year tour with the U.S. Army Air Defense Command, Ray relocated to the Santa Clara Valley where he performed the duties of Hospitality Director and, eventually, National Sales Manager for the Mirassou family winery. Striking out on his own in 1975, he formed several product specific wine production and marketing entities which culminated in his ownership of the Farview Farm Vineyard Winery in Templeton, California and a wine specialty store, Grape and Grain in Fresno.
Ray's passion for "growing" wine was realized with his 1994 purchase of the forty- acre "Paint Horse Ranch" along Fine Gold Creek in the historic Sierra gold mining hamlet of O'Neals. The dream became a reality (Fait Accompli) in 1999 when the first grapes from the carefully orchestrated three year old red Bordeaux varietal vineyard were harvested. The following year Tammy became co-winemaker and the year after that, Mrs. Krause. Tammy shares in all vineyard and winery responsibilities except the operation of their recalcitrant fifty-five year old Ford 8N tractor. With her organoleptic prowess, she is particularly valuable in wine blending and bottling decisions at Westbrook Wine Farm. She frequently judges at the prestigious Orange County Fair Wine Competition. Ray and Tammy have but two goals; to achieve a life in balance and to make wine which is at least as good as the best in the world.
The curse of extra-ordinarily bright people is that they over-think stuff. Perversely, when without minutia to over-think, they make something up. These same phenoms are also often inextricably bound to their "to do" lists and may even add things to them after the fact just so they can cross them off. Just ask me. Here I sit puzzling over my left shoelace. Tying it is not on my list today and I know that if I tie it it will just come undone and have to be tied again. So do I add it to my list now or wait until the end of the day and cross it off only once? Guess that's why God invented Velcro. As to your wines, they both will provide additional reward for every month you restrain yourself. On the other hand, we cracked a bottle of the '03 "Seventh Leaf" here at the winery yesterday for a group of Italian Sommeliers and it was magnificent! RK
"Good pruning is the art of taking away, like a sculptor chiseling a rock, working to uncover life inside......you work with the past and see the future, adding to a living timeline" David "Mas" Masumoto, author and farmer
"I don't get paid for what I take off" the late Lloyd Howard, Ray's Barber for 23 years
"A silver medal is like a kiss from your sister" the late Jerry D. Mead on wine competitions
"You might say that a screw cap is more user friendly than a cork but then so is a bag-in-box and we don't see many of them being cellared either. We find that our level of consumer would rather CRACK the WAX ! than screw off. RK
"Any two wines are more alike than wine and water" the late Joseph Heitz on rinsing between tastes
If you don't want to really taste a wine, drink it chilled in a small glass. RK
Lynn; back in the early 1970s most wine consumers talked dry but drank sweet and/or red wines at cellar (not "room") temperature. Then the strangest thing happened, they began to drink more white wine than red. We in the industry thought that it was a white wine boom when, in actuality, it was a cold wine boom. It didn't hurt that the Chenin Blanc, Johannesburg Riesling, Green Hungarian, Le Blanc de Blanc, Blue Nun and Grey Riesling "cocktail wines" were semi-dry and took to the chillin' better than the astringent and even tannic Petite Sirah, Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons. It is said that if you really don't like wine, chill the hell out of it and put it in a small glass. If that doesn't assuage the aversion there's always the more thorough dilution using ice. We often enjoy our WWF whites (and reds) starting at cellar temp.
"From the Single Vineyard Collection of Westbrook Wine Farm of Madera County: Petite Sirah 2007 John Simpson Vines. This is one of their Statewide award winning wines and it is one of the amazing secrets of Madera County and the Central Sierra Foothills. Their entire line up is just stunning. This is another offering not to be missed and prepare to say, "Wow."
J. Parker, WTF
From: Thierry Larrivée Subject: Fait accompli Def: A thing accomplished: a done deal.
Under "MEANING:" you write: "noun: A thing accomplished: a done deal."
Well, it's literally right, but we (French speakers) usually use this expression to describe an action that has been completed BEFORE those affected by it can say anything about it or change it." or instance "Tu m'as mis devant le fait accompli." (You put me in front of the accomplished fact). It's somehow a reprimand. I guess it's an important "nuance"... Strange enough, I have a bottle of "Fait accompli" (Westbrook Wine Farm, in the Sierra Nevada Foothills of eastern Madera County, CA) and was wondering, last night, why they had chosen this name. I went on their website and could see they had made the same "nuance mistake"...
posted by Martha Esbin http://librariansmuse.blogspot.com