The Chardonnay Symposium. The Wine Blogging Awards.
I’m back from my panel at The Chardonnay Symposium down at gorgeous Bien Nacido Vineyards and man oh man, what a fun time it was. Only in its second year, TCS is growing by leaps and bounds, and is destined to be the premier Chardonnay event in the U.S.A. (Actually, it already is, but you ain’t seen nothing yet!)
After my panel, on oaked and unoaked Chardonnay, people asked me, what was your favorite wine in the flight? And I said, I can’t actually say. There are different ways I taste wine. Tasting at home for review is a very specialized form of wine tasting. It’s how I taste at work, but it’s not how I, or any normal person, would taste wine anyplace else. It would be dreadfully boring to always be formally tasting wine.
For example, at my seminar, the way I tasted was to look for what was best and most exemplary in each wine. So although we had 12 wines, and they were all quite different from each other–grown in different regions, made by different winemakers, some entirely unoaked, some with 200% new oak, some at 13%, some at 16%, some from barrel, some 8 years old–I looked for the best qualities of each. And I found them, because you generally find what you’re looking for, whether it’s in wine, people or life.
On the other hand, when I taste critically, in blind flights, what I’m looking for are faults. I’m seeking to eliminate wines from the lineup, one by one, due to certain flaws. They may be excessive in acidity, or flabby, or too hot in the finish, or too oaky, or not fruity enough, or have raisin tastes, or be too sweet; it could be anything. Last one standing wins. So, just as I said you always find what you’re looking for, if you’re looking for faults, you’ll find them.
This leads to the question, is it better to look for faults or for virtues? The answer is, you can’t say one approach is better than the other. Different approaches are suitable for different purposes. When I’m reviewing and scoring, it’s appropriate to look for flaws. When I’m leading a panel of invited winemakers, each of whom I’m honored to sit beside, I’m looking to find those qualities in the wines that are the topic of the symposium. And let’s face it, the winemakers on my panel are not accustomed to making ordinary wines! Each of the twelve samples was extraordinary in its own unique way.
(Thanks by the way to Ellen for being a wonderful traveling companion!)
The Wine Blogging Awards
Of course I wanted to win Best Wine Blog at the Wine Bloggers Convention. And I didn’t. But I can honestly say that there’s nobody whom I would more have preferred to beat me than Tom Wark and his Fermentation blog.
Tom deserved this award by every measure. He’s easily the most important person in wine blogging history. He not only had one of the first wine blogs, he began the Wine Bloggers Conference and he started the Wine Blog Awards. Those achievements alone put Tom in the pantheon. Tom is to wine blogging as Walt Disney is to animation, as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were to the personal computer. In other words, the creator.
More personally, Tom has been my mentor in wine blogging. Not in the most direct way, but still importantly. It wasn’t Tom alone who persuaded me to be a wine blogger. But he was incredibly supportive of my efforts from the start. When I began wine blogging, Tom wrote one of the first reviews, which he headlined “Steve Heimoff and the Active Mind.” I was so proud of that, because Tom really “got” what it was I was trying to do (as I already had “got” what he was trying to do).
Since then, Tom has been a friend and ally. I like to think he’s had my back, and I know I’ve had his. It was Tom who advised me to blog 5 days a week. I’ve had offline conversations with Tom over the years. I’ve asked him questions and for advice; he’s always kindly answered. He’s asked me questions; I’ve given him my opinions, I hope helpfully. I respect the hell out of Tom Wark (and by the way, Tom is absolutely leading the fight against monopolistic distributors). Like I said, if I couldn’t win this award, there’s nobody on Earth I would rather have seen win. So my heartiest congratulations, Tom. You singularly deserve this honor.