“Bitch!” I sneer again in my thoughts as I glare at the all-to-perky blonde weather girl who is amazingly bright and wide-eyed at 5:00 A.M. In a classic case of shooting the messenger, my frustration has to be directed at this former cheerleader as it will do no good to rail against Mother Nature.
The cute plastic blond on the TV had just forecasted rain. I cannot imagine worse news. It has not rained here in Oregon’s Willamette Valley for months. “Why can’t the god damn rain wait just a few more weeks,” I grumble to myself as I stare at the cloudy, damp morning that seems even grayer in the pre-dawn gloom. So far it had been an almost perfect vintage and the vines are loaded with beautiful fruit that is now just a couple of weeks away from harvest - and now this. The mood at the winery changed right with the weather, with sunny smiles and optimism replaced by a gray moodiness as the clouds covered the bright, warm sun that had shined reliably every day since last June. Now all we can do is wait and hope.
It is this visceral relationship with the daily morning weather report that will forever divide the way wines are perceived by critics and winemakers. Giving a wine points in this context is almost insulting nature to someone who has lived with the vines every day. When you see vines on a daily basis, then pick them, crush their fruit and guide it in its journey to becoming wine you see each wine as an individual. Like a parent thinking of their children, you don’t rate them, but appreciate each of them for their strengths, weaknesses and individual quirks. Every vintage has a personality worthy of consideration if the winemaker lets that personality show through. You also learn from them with each generation giving you information that will make you a better parent with the next.
This is a more beautiful way to look at wine than the sterile rankings of people like Parker, The Wine Spectator and Tanzer. Not only is it more beautiful, it is more natural and in line with what wine really is: a product of nature.
I’m not talking about commercial, industrialized plonk like Kendall Jackson, Santa Margherita, Two Buck Chuck, Yellow Tail or the long list of beverage alcohol products that are brands only designed to please inattentive palates with a static style regardless of natures whims, but about the myriad of wines made by producers who live with their vines and to whom winemaking means something beyond making a buck. The market is full of wines that speak of the nature that created them. If you pay attention to what you drink, you can feel the intensity and complexity created by the combination of human aspirations and nature’s power. Points have little to do with wines that exhibit this electric synergy, so depend more on your palate than scores, which are sure to miss the nuance and complexity layered through such wines - be they simple everyday wines or classics for your cellar.
“Bitch!” It’s going to rain again today.