It’s been nearly 20 years since I was first introduced to the world of wine by my wife’s father. It all happened during what some consider to be one of the most nerve-racking moments in the evolution of any personal relationship – meeting the parents for the very first time. As a way of endearing myself to my future wife’s dad, I graciously accepted his offer of a glass of Chardonnay and I immediately launched into a discourse that was nothing short of a complete deconstruction, or destruction, of the aromatics and flavors found in that wine.
Of course, I had no idea what I was smelling, or tasting, but being a quick study I mimicked the swirl, the sniff, and the slurp, then applied a thick coating of absolute nonsense to the discussion. While I’m sure Pops knew I was full of crap, he was kind enough to look past my blathering. I can’t imagine what would have happened if he had called me on my nonsense, but I am certain I wouldn’t be enjoying the hell out of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, or chasing down good deals on old vine Lodi Zinfandels, and doing it all with his beautiful daughter!
Today I find myself as fascinated and passionate about wine as I was those many years ago. For me, every bottle is a bit of a mystery, or maybe alchemy better describes my sense of wonderment. Every bottle, a new experience, whether it be Petite Sirah, Nebbiolo, Gewürztraminer, or any other varietal I am fortunate enough to enjoy.
And now, the raison d’etre…
In an effort to offer you at least a glimpse into why I decided to share my thoughts on wine, I’ll begin by saying I am in no way claiming to be an expert in the finer points of winemaking, or even wine tasting. Nor am I willing to lay claim to having had the opportunity to imbibe in all of the world’s great wines. Nope, no chance to swoon over a bottle of La Tâche. Not even close to a long moment’s contemplation of that first taste of the 2001 Gaja Costa Russi. In fact, the closest I have come to a Penfolds Grange was while stalking the aisles of a high end wine merchant and gingerly cradling the bottle as if it were mine, all mine.
See, there is this school of thought that claims in order to offer anything resembling a valid opinion on any wine requires that the critique be based on a thorough exposure to virtually every winemaking technique known to humanity. If you haven’t been fortunate enough to participate in a vertical tasting of Screaming Eagle, then you should probably refrain from riffing on the tannins found in a bottle of Bogle Petite Sirah.
To this philosophy I say bullshit. It’s like saying you have no right to laugh while watching Caddyshack because you’ve never seen Casablanca or Vertigo. It’s not rocket science when we open our pie holes and cram a piece of chocolate in there. There is a natural reaction that the vast majority of us experience. It tastes fucking delicious and that’s that.
This is not to say that personal experience, diligent study, social interaction, and seeking discourse with those possessing differing interests, or greater experience, is not worthwhile. Quite the contrary, each of these actions results in the continual development of knowledge while serving to offer at least some level of validation in the critic’s observations. However, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a Syrah in a doublewide or a Pinot in your studio apartment.
At this point I should probably step back and pay homage to the hundreds, if not thousands, of wine writers that find themselves straddling the fence between the old and new media. In fact, I look to many of today’s writers, whether in print, or via blog, and I marvel at their ability to boldly offer well-written observations on all things wine, while doing so in a way that doesn’t alienate the casual wine consumer.
As for me, I consider myself nothing more than a chatty consumer that enjoys sharing his personal experiences. With so many opinions, and so many ways to express those opinions, I have opted to keep things as simple as possible. As a high school social studies teacher, on hiatus, I am most comfortable assigning letter grades, including the plus and minus. Unlike many high school teachers, I don’t grade on a curve, meaning that an A grade equates to outstanding and an F grade means I poured that juice down the drain without hesitation. In other words, and in the vernacular of my students, “Mr. Rose is keeping it real!”
I hope you enjoy my take on all things wine, and I look forward to hearing from you! Even if you think I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.