A Winemaker’s Journey: Part 1 – Research

As Crush 2010 comes to an end, I thought it would be a good time to reflect a bit on wine.  After all this is a blog about “…food, wine and photography”, we’ve had plenty of food and photography but where the freak is the wine!

OK, let’s get some things out of the way.  I like wine.  Daresay I love it, make mine red, big and bold.  Nicole, my wife, best friend and soulmate does too, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that our first “date” was at a wine bar (in Brooklyn.)

Andy and Nik share a little vino in Napa.  We were already in the bag.

Does my love of wine make me a oenophile?  I am not quite sure, as my palette is not very developed nor sensitive.  I recognize what I like, but I admit I don’t get the “wet heather” or even “leathery” notes.  I just know some taste good, and some not so much.   Being a oenophile sounds a bit pretentious too, but it does get bonus points for the vowel to consonant ratio.

So where do we start?  Let’s go back a two years to Napa valley, where Nicole and I gathered with some friends to do some serious “research”.  Being the neophyte oenophile (I should get a double word bonus) that I am, I was in charge of the food while my wine buddy Frank was left to choose the wine.  Frank wasn’t screwing around and he planned some serious wineries: Caymus, Opus, Stag’s Leap, Silver Oak, Silverado and Cakebread.    For shits and giggles we also hit Castello di Amaroso (for the cool castle, not the wine) and Vui Suitti (for the charcuterie).  I am sure I left a few off the list due to my altered  state of consciousness.  We wound up hitting 3 wineries per day!  I was pickled by dinner.

Stag’s Leap Winery’s vineyard

Silverado, Donkey Kong would love this place!

Wine storage in the cellar of Castello di Amorosa.  Having a castle probably gets you dates.

The people in Napa are really nice and laid back, which is no surprise given the surroundings.    They sure don’t mess around with their food or drink and it felt like we were in another country where they spoke English and used dollars.  A nice surprise was after you hit a few wineries and befriend the locals a lot of free tastings come your way.   We should live there, I am sure I can operate TJCC anywhere!

The other thing we learned, is that Opus is not only obnoxiously expensive, the people and architecture matches.  Yeah, the wine is good, but so what?   30 bucks for a ¼ pour is ridiculous.  I know their wine costs over a hundo per bottle but you would think they would be a bit of a loss leader at their freakin’ winery to build some goodwill.  Also, did they really have to remind me not to steal the glassware?  Believe you me, the good folks at Opus won’t have to concern their precious little selves about me stealing (or buying) anything from them.   Even without this nonsense, dollar for dollar I prefer Caymus and Stag’s Leap (Artemis, the Cask 22 or whatever they call it wasn’t worth the price delta to me).

Some nice pics at Opus, too bad that was the best part.  I didn’t keep the glass.

Also, don’t buy ANY wine in Napa to bring home.  One, it’s more expensive there vs. my local wine monger.  Two, you gotta ship or carry the stuff.  What a pain in the ass it was to bring home a magnum of Caymus — never again.  Buy it there to drink it there!  Remember kids, wine in Napa stays in Napa.

The downside of our trip?  I learned we like expensive wine better than the cheap stuff.  Oh yeah, we also learned that wine is serious business, at least until we had a few bottles polished off!  Somehow we always wound up at Target buying pretzels and water pistols shaped like dragons.  That’s serious.


Now these are some serious vats, and these are the small ones.

I am sure you want to know about the food, right?  The food was insane but those details are for another post boys and girls, we’re talking wine today.

Continued in: A Winemaker’s Journey Part II – Jumping in.