Friday, August 8, 2008

Labor in the Vineyards of the Internet

Is it possible to get sick of wine? I mean, wine in general and in principle, not a particular wine.

I suppose there are those who have no love of wine, or elevated sensual experiences, or, you know, being alive. I cannot relate to those people. I am certainly not marrying any of them!

In addition to our well-documented quest for the right dinner wine (come over tomorrow for a tasting of the four finalists for Italian White of the Day), we are also planning a wine country honeymoon. So, I have spent many hours - in my predictable, pernickety way - studying all the vineyards and wineries of northern Sonoma and Mendocino counties to lay out an air-tight and endlessly thrilling itinerary.

For someone who lives in his head as much as I do, reading about wine is very enjoyable. It does not compare to direct experience, but the pleasure is not negligible.

Reading about the Vinicultural Areas we'll visit and the neighborhoods within them, and the vineyards of various sizes, various production and farming principles, different ownership schemes - I learned more planning this trip than I ever learned about wine just by tasting (and looking at labels) or studying a book. I learned a lot because I had to make so many decisions about what one could and should experience there.

Now, I have an idea what to look for when we go tasting. I know that in the Green Valley (which is part of the Russian River Valley, which is part of the Northern Sonoma AVA), we'll be tasting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown in the coolest, foggiest part of Sonoma. We'll be trying to mentally contrast what we taste with the Burgundian versions of those wines, and looking for the subtle differences among wines produced in a very tiny, somewhat homogeneous appellation.

I know that in the Dry Creek Valley, which is also part of the Northern Sonoma AVA, we will be tasting a lot of Zinfandel, the flagship grape of the area, which takes on an especially balanced and elegant character here due to the unusual combination of cool temperatures and bright sun (there is relatively little fog). We also know that in addition to Zinfandel, many producers are taking advantage of the climate and soil to produce Bordeaux- and Rhone-style wines.

I also know that we're visiting the one winery with a really good-looking owner.

And, I know that Route 128 between our B&B in Healdsburg and our oceanfront cottage in Elk is the Boulevard Champenoise, with sparkling Pinot and Chardonnay being tasted on both sides of the road, amid orchards and sheep pastures. I think that we should schedule our legal California wedding to take place on the same day that we guzzle a maximum amount of Anderson Valley bubbly.

All these words about wine remind me of the numerous studies that prove that expectations about a wine - or beliefs about its price - radically effect the way we taste it. I don't see that as a problem, necessarily, because it means that a good part of oenophilia is mental, and I can enjoy that part right here at my desk, whenever I please.


Jennifer said...

hmm, we are still on a honeymoon hunt, is October a good time to go for tastings? The RRV is one of my favorite wine regions, never been, but we haven't had a bad Pinot from there yet!

Emerson Beyer said...

The only downside to going in October is that it's immensely popular, and it can be difficult/expensive to get a room anywhere. The harvest and most "release" celebrations are in September, so you miss that. And, there's so much emphasis on seasonal food, too, it's hard to beat early autumn.