Eye Roll, Please

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The first thing that popped into my head after reading the other day about the apparent Washington state trend taking place to establish estate vineyards was a remark by the father in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when he learns his children have skipped school, “Good. It’ll give the other children a chance to catch up.” (side note, who knew Chitty was written by Ian Fleming? I didn’t. So Truly Scrumptious now makes sense…).

Scott and I have been speaking “estate” since our giantly robust business plan was born; with all the research I did and Scott’s full grip on what makes great wine well established, we knew from day one that it’s estate all the way, baby. In fact, here’s a glimpse of what I had written, all the way back in early 2006:

One Vineyard, One Producer, One Wine: the Key to Fine Wines

It is widely accepted that wines are made in the vineyard, and history has shown that the finest and most memorable wine comes from vineyards that are estate-owned and grown. This philosophy is a luxury few wineries can afford: the time and cost to establish and oversee a vineyard means fewer and fewer estate wineries are being created. Yet on the flipside, it is a luxury some wineries cannot afford NOT to have, in order to remain competitive and distinct. Recently there has been a small movement growing, of established, premium wineries returning to estate wines. Leonetti, Quilceda Creek, and Cadence Winery are now developing or plan on developing their own estate vineyards (Bonne, 2006). “We’re going towards being entirely estate grown, and that pushes me philosophically towards showing off our vineyards,” says Chris Figgins (Wine Enthusiast, 2006), head winemaker of the prestigious Leonetti Cellars. In effect, Figgins is pointing to the fact that estate is THE only way to ensure quality and uniqueness in the marketplace, and the only way a winery can guarantee it. The Grande Dalles, founded 100% on the estate philosophy, will from the start come to the market with this distinction and consumer appeal, for the very first wines we make, and the ONLY wines we make, will be estate.

Maybe instead of catching UP, better to say catching ON. Which is absolutely surPRIsing, that, the big players in particular, did not recognize the importance of estate from day one.

For us, Scott and I no longer talk about estate. Because what we have realized, in the past four years since we wrote our plan and planted our vineyard is that there’s so much more.

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An article from the UK’s Telegraph about France’s Cork Federation and their recent campaign to boost cork appreciation got me thinking. For one, about how little I still know about corks, and for two, about how much I do know. For again and again I have been hearing about the two camps, to cork or not to cork, because of the fear of what’s being labeled cork taint. Supposedly cork taint can affect up to 15% of all wine bottles, no laughing matter. But how much is really cork taint from corks, and how much is it from other sources that rarely get referenced?

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So get this. Driving around in the Midwest last week, in a bedroom-like community of Kansas City (a be-YU-tiful city – need to spend more time there), saw a housing development going up named “Napa Valley.” I was SHOCKED. And then amused. And then SHOCKED again. Why? No, it’s not because it was a small tract of land that was flatter than flat with just a hint of the many more identical McMansions that would be slapped up there blaring out at us from the distance. And for sure it’s not because of its Midwest locale. Nor because it was lacking any atmosphere of ANY kind. (Disclaimer required: I’ve never been to Napa Valley, I’ve just seen pictures, but this development wuhddn’t [sic] no Napa Valley!) Here’s why I was miffed: Read the rest of this entry »

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