Ineffable

If you are ever in Idaho, or if you have the good fortune to find Idaho wine in your state, which won’t be easy, I recommend that you look for names like Koenig Vineyards, Davis Creek Cellars, Sawtooth Winery, and 3 Horse Ranch. These wineries truly showed some wonderful wines, from Malbec to Viognier to Pinot Gris, in the wine competition that I judged in Boise last month.

A few of the wineries use the same consulting winemaker, but right now, I don’t know which use him. I believe, however, that he is part of the Koenig Vineyards operation.

I had a few problems with some of the medals awarded because the wines that won them seemed to me (and to another judge) to have obvious technical flaws. Oh well, I’ll save that discussion for a later blog entry.

In all, the trip out West was an eye-opener, especially while walking the vineyards and comparing them to home.

“It’s only May, you know.”

That comment came to me this morning from a Finger Lakes grape grower, Walter Volz, after I mentioned the difference between the development of his vines this month as compared to the development of Idaho and Sonoma vines last month.

April in Idaho saw vine shoots that were quite long; in Sonoma, the vines already had clusters on them making ready to flower. In the Finger Lakes, the May vines have just about started to pop their buds.

In his comment about May, Walter was referencing the fact that we can still suffer a nasty frost in the Finger Lakes. In fact, it’s almost a given that at least one night this month, Walter will have to light up some bales of hay so that the overnight smoke that wafts over his tender shoots will keep them warm enough to survive the frost.

It is amazing how hard people work to grow grapes and to produce wine in marginal regions with long winters and short growing seasons. When you get to know their labor, or become a part of it, it’s not difficult to understand why some of us wine writers choose not to become wine critics. It’s all so easy to condemn a product that doesn’t meet with your aesthetics, much easier than trying to create that product.

I’ve complained about magazines and critics that only print ratings for wines that meet the upper criteria of their aesthetic demands. But on reflection, I’ve come to understand that this may be a good thing, especially if the critic’s aesthetics include massively extracted wines with enough alcohol and power to run an economy.

You can’t get that kind of wine from a cool and marginal region, and so the region will either be trashed or ignored by the critic–best that it is ignored.

The ineffable must drive nuts wine critics engaged in pounding out adjectives and numbers on their keyboard.

What you can get from cool regions are lean and racy wines often with subtle and elegant finesse. They are hardly the proper aesthetic qualities for masculine adjectives.

Me, I revel in the indescribable. A few of the Idaho wines met that criteria, and it happens almost every time I taste a Finger Lakes Riesling, especially from a vintage that started the season with both a flowering and a frost in May.

If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
May 2009. All rights reserved.

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