Sunday, May 31, 2009

A passion for wine and blogging

Josh, the Pinotblogger and the Capozzi Winery have laid a challenge in front of wine bloggers. The link to the post with more details can be found here. Below is my answer to the challenge, not because I am looking to win the prize (although, who says no to a prize?), but because it allows me to sit and reflect on what I do here on this blog.

The first question to answer is:
Why are you passionate about wine, and what motivates you to blog about
it?Read more:

I have found passions in interesting areas. When I was eleven years old I started fencing. Over the years I became good enough to win a few tournaments, travel and compete internationally, and meet hundreds of interesting people who are passionate about the sport. I continue to keep my hand in the fencing world by refereeing at various tournaments around the country and for as much as I complain about the horrors of air travel, I enjoy doing it. My favorite moments during my fencing career have been when one of my college teammates made an action that I told them would work against their opponent and that moment when they understood not only how the action was supposed to be made, but why I had told them to do it and how it had worked.

Starting in about seventh grade and continuing through today, I enjoy the art of writing. Some might say that my grammar has a long way to go and that my spelling is atrocious (I love you mom!), but there is nothing more cleansing for me than writing. I used to write a lot of poetry (most of it bad and juvenile). I still do some writing and those that I have accepted as friends on Facebook can find my writings in my notes. There are few pleasures better than having someone telling me that my writing touched them (however, that is not an invitation for praise).

Bear with me, I am working up to a point.

Wine has brought me to a place where I can enjoy each glass in three ways. There is the pleasure I get from a well made product, the same way I love a great piece of chocolate or an enjoyable book. I also get the chance to learn each time I open a bottle. One of the main reasons I started this blog was to have a conduit where I can compel myself to learn about each bottle I open and each winery I talk about.

The last way I enjoy a wine is by teaching someone else about what it is I am enjoying and finding out if they enjoy it in the same way.

That is what really bridges all of my passions together. I love seeing that 'aha!' moment. I love being the person that helped someone else connect the dots to a conclusion. I studied to become a teacher in college, but found myself going into communication instead (For those interested, my math grades stopped me from becoming a math teacher. For some reason my school required me to be able to understand incomprehensible maths in order to teach algebra... not that I am sorry how things worked out).

What made me passionate about wine started while I was in high school. At the dinner table I was always encouraged to try new things, perhaps an interesting culinary creation or something as simple as beer or wine. From there I moved into college and became one of the few people in my group of friends confident enough to look at a wine list and pick out a bottle of wine. I had no idea what I was doing, but I could fake it. I would also experiment with wine and tried many brands within my limited college student budget.

My first step to becoming truly geeky about wine started when I was hired at my first full-time job after I graduated. I was asked to work on Chilean wines and my exposure to the wine industry increased exponentially. From then through today it was all about tasting everything I could, learning everything I could hold onto, and always looking for that next new great wine experience.

From there, blogging became an obvious decision. I started blogging about wine to learn, not only about the wines but about blogging. Why do people blog? Why put in the time? What is the return?

You can really only understand by starting your own blog. Blogging enters you into a community of people all looking for that next experience and with the desire to share it with others. The time requirements are immense. I had no idea that I would need to set aside hours each week just to be able to put out one or two blog posts.

And the return is what you put into it. An insightful blog post will have people from all over the world coming to your blog to leave a comment or just to read what you have said. A hastily written blog posts gains nothing, because nothing is put into its creation.

Now I have spent too much time on the first part of Josh's challenge and will need to address the second part:
Is it appropriate for a wine reviewer to prescribe the ways in which a wine
should be made, or is their job chiefly to review what’s in the bottle? Use
examples from the wine you choose to illustrate your position.Read more:

I think this question is a lot trickier than it looks on the surface. The crux of the question (for me... likely not what Josh intended) revolves around the question "What is a wine reviewer?"

There are currently many wine reviewers in the world. Many work for credible publications, such as the Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits, International Wine Cellar, and Decanter.

And then there are hundreds, maybe thousands of blogs currently being written by wine enthusiasts. It would be wrong to say that the bloggers that write about wines are not wine reviewers, because no matter what, once an opinion is registered about the wine they are discussing they have 'reviewed' the wine.

It all comes down to who you trust to give you good advice. The publications have credibility because their writers have been reviewing wines for decades. However, there are plenty of publications that I would not trust because they have not proven to me that they know what they are talking about. The exact same criteria holds for bloggers.

That being established, I have strayed well off the topic that Josh intended when he put forth this challenge, so to bring it back I will talk about a wine I drank at home as an example for his intended question.

My mom enjoys her wine. When I was little my parents purchased several bottles to keep in their basement (do not call it a cellar) until the wine was ready to drink. They bought a case of Grand Puy Lacoste 1983 for my birthday year (and we should get to drinking it!). There were a few bottles of Cheval Blanc that I convinced my mom to open for Thanksgiving.

So, for my last trip home we opened a bottle of Ridge Jimsomare Zinfandel 1990, a wine that I can no longer find on the Internet. I thought the wine was excellent, rich with aged notes of leather, pepper, pipe tobacco, and yet still a good deal of fig and sweet blackberry. A great wine to share with one of the people I care most about in the world.

I have no idea how that got into the bottle.

By that I mean I am not a winemaker. I have not been educated on what strains of yeast to use, how long to cold soak the juice, what temperature a fermentation should begin at and when it should end.

I know how to use a corkscrew (oh, do I know how) and the best way to pour a wine into a glass without spilling all over the table (still working on perfecting that one). I have tasted hundreds of wines, but that still does not make me an expert, as those I would call expert have tasted hundreds of thousands of wines, if not more.

In giving my review of a wine all I know is what I like and what I taste. I know I liked the Ridge Jimsomare and I would consider it to be an enjoyable wine for anyone. If I knew for certain that the tastes presented on my palate were caused by the years it was aged, the use of an exact amount of oak, the precise moment the winemaker decided to started fermentation, then maybe I could make those statements. Maybe. If I was feeling ballsy that day.

So, my answer is I think a wine review should only review what is in the bottle. It is not up to a wine reviewer to determine the direction a winemaker goes in to make his wine. That decision should always reside at the winery, with the knowledge that there will be many people that will not like the wine being made, no matter what the wine tastes like. Once a winery accepts that, there should be no other decision other than to make the best wine possible.

I want to thank the Capozzi Winery and Josh for giving me the motivation to write this blog post. I think it is a great way to reach bloggers.
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