Random thoughts on the world of wine, presented in no particular order.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Visiting a winery

When going to a visit a winery, you'll find some variation on the following speech.  Always.

"Welcome to Chateau du grandmere d'taurieau1!  Our winemaking philosophy is simple; great wine begins in the vineyard.  We selectively harvest only the best grapes from our vineyards, which are then gently handled and vinified using labor-intensive techniques, to fully express the terroir of [appellation].  That's how we've done it since the Taurieau family founded this winery, [number of years] ago."

Cutting through the marketing, basically what's being said is "we try to get good grapes, and treat them well.  Since everyone else does this -- excepting giant bulk producers -- we have to make it sound more artesianal."

This is often followed by the phrase:

"So, please, try our wonderful [appellation] Sauvignon Blanc."

I'll note that, in general, the Sauvignon Blanc isn't all that wonderful.  There are exceptions (Barnett, pictured above, and Sobon both come to mind), but for the most part the Sauvignon Blanc is slightly sweet and low acidity; it's there to whet your appetite for the more serious wine.  And, perhaps, to dull your palate a bit.

You'll then be given three or four other wines, culminating in their best (read: most expensive):

"Finally, our most select lots go into this wine, our tete de cuvee.  Note the depth and complexity of the flavor, the power, and the little hint of [odd flavor], the signature of the terroir of [appellation]."

Of course, the best is saved for last, after you've had 3 or 4 tasting pours -- just over a glass.  Your palate will have been dulled slightly, and (if this isn't your first winery visit of the day), perhaps you're even a bit buzzed.  So, of course, you're just a bit more suggestable.  And more likely to buy the tete de cuvee (which, generally, really is their best, although I often wonder if it's worth the price).  Yes, it does have a hint of mint, or fresh asparagus, or whatever the odd flavor is, but does that make it worth twice the price of their regular offerings?

Again, I'll note exceptions -- Sobon Estates, for example, has a tete de cuvee zin that is over twice the price of their regular offering.  A whopping $25 for their Reserve Paul's Vineyard, as opposed to the $11 Hillside.   And, yes, it is worth it.  I'll post a review Monday, in fact, of some of the wines in their lineup, as I realized that I've had just about everything out of their winery when the winemaker came to visit my local wine store last year.

You may also get, at this point, an invitation to join their wine club, by whatever name they call it.  Honestly, this is often a good deal -- you get wine, generally their new releases, on a regular basis, and there are often other benefits (generally the price for the wines is lower, you get access to library releases and club-exclusive wines -- which can be either experimental wines, or are just really low-production).  But, think before you sign on the dotted line!  Do you really want their wine on a regular basis?  Is it unavailable in your local wine shop?  If so, is it less expensive in your local wine shop (often, the vineyard is the most expensive place to buy a wine)?  Maintaining several mailing list memberships can be quite expensive!

1 I couldn't resist the pun here.  Does anyone else notice it?

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