Spit Happens # 60 -Still Learning

Every so often a book comes along that challenges my preconceived notions about wine. Between the Vines by Terry Theise is just the book to do that. First of all who the heck is Terry Theise ? Terry is a fellow who spends a ton of time in Germany, Austria and Champagne hunting down wines of distinction. I first met him at a Society of Wine Educators Conference in Vancouver about 16 years ago . I signed up for a tasting he was offering on the Wines of Austria , specifically Gruner Vetliner. I had vague knowledge of the grape but little of it was ending up in Canada . It was however the darling of all the hip Sommeliers from the East and West Coast of America at the time. Looking back on it this was largely due to the efforts of Terry and his American business associates Michael and Harmon Skurnik . I went ( along with John Clerides from Marquis Wine Cellars ) with no preconceived notions about the wines but a bit of dread as it was scheduled to be a 2 ½ hour tasting and I thought it would be too long to sit and might be a bit esoteric for our store. I couldn’t have been more surprised when the tasting ended and I still wanted more. More information and more wine. Terry was engaging and erudite with great wines to try and great insight as to why these wines deserved more attention. John paid a great deal of attention to Terry and subsequently brought in a number of wines from the Austrian portfolio that Terry “discovered” . He also brought in some great Champagnes that Terry found as well but that is another story. Fast forward to 2010 and Terry published a book called Reading Between the Wines ISBN 978-0-520-26533-2. I bought the book when it came out and read it in a single sitting, then filed it away. On a recent trip I pulled the book out of my “ pile o’ wine books to read it again”. This time around my brain was more receptive to the message he was eloquently attempting to explain. All my wine life I have been a “points” guy. Numbers from Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and other writers mattered to me more than I’m willing to admit. I was seduced by the big points and the experience of drinking them. The problem is the points arrive from a process of tasting that values amplitude and concentration more than elegance and finesse. The big points wines stand out in a crowd much the same way Shaquille O’neal would stand out in a kindergarten class. That also means they will stand out in a flight of other wines that might have more delicacy and tact. Terry thinks we have it wrong and he has a manifesto of sorts that explains his criteria for wine he values the most when selecting wines.

  • Clarity
  • Distinctiveness
  • Grace
  • Balance
  • Deliciousness
  • Complexity
  • Modesty
  • Persistence
  • Paradox

I’m pretty comfortable in saying there are few writers that consider Grace ,Modesty or Paradox when giving a wine a 100 points. I would put forward the theory that for the most part writers ascribe density, extract/concentration and richness over any of Terry’s criteria. It’s possible for both points of view to exist but I’m starting to think that I spent a career ascribing a level of quality to wines that was undeserved. Think about those quiet but moving novelists that don’t make the Pulitzer Prize list, think about the singer at your local cafe you love to listen to that never gets any airplay for the songs they write. Is their effort and craft any less deserving of your attention? I think not. Wine has a different role in my life now. I don’t want it to shout at me, I want it to form an integral point of my meal but not dominate the conversation or the effort expended to make a great meal.

Thanks for your time.

If you have any feedback we would love to hear from you on our Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/winecellardepot/ .

Also check out our Houzz Page for design ideas and planning. http://www.houzz.com/pro/winecellardepot/wine-cellar-depot

Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food. Cheers.

David Lancelot

Spit Happens #59 – I’m so High.

I recently visited the highest elevation commercial Vineyard in North America. Link .It was a real eye opener and got me thinking that we need to rethink the North American idea that hybrid grapes don’t have value and that irrigation is always needed. While touring the Okanagan Valley this summer I had some guests that own the highest vineyard that grows grapes for commercial wine in North America. They are near Cortez Colorado at an elevation of 6600 feet ( 2011 meters ) . We decided to visit Jerry Fetterman and Jean Ann Mercer on our way to New Mexico this fall and I’m so glad we did. They are a middle aged couple with backgrounds in science and enjoy being in a rural part of Colorado . Jerry built a cabin there in the 70’s and over the years added on to it as well as acquired more property in the area. It was on one of these properties that he decided they would plant grapes but also that they would dry farm them. If you have been to wineries in the Okanagan you know that the thought of dry farming is an anathema to most growers. So imagine a one acre vineyard growing Baco Noir ( a hybrid grape ) at 6600 feet in the high dessert area of western Colorado . Baco Noir from Wikipedia Baco noir is a hybrid red wine grape variety produced by Francois Baco from a cross of Vitis vinifera var. Folle blanche, a French wine grape, and an unknown variety of Vitis riparia indigenous to North America.” This area is breathtaking in it’s beauty and among some of the most rugged challenging conditions I have seen to attempt to ripen grapes. And yet they thrive up there. We visited about a week before the planned harvest of they grapes and the dry farmed vines were thriving and producing grapes that looked lovely.

All the wines have an interesting bright fruit character and can benefit from a few years of age. 2018 was my favorite. The wines were made by Guy Drew Wines ( now defunct ). The labels were created by the vineyard owners and not commercially released.

Thanks for your time.

If you have any feedback we would love to hear from you on our Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/winecellardepot/ .

Also check out our Houzz Page for design ideas and planning. http://www.houzz.com/pro/winecellardepot/wine-cellar-depot

Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food. Cheers
David Lancelot