The Grape Gatsby

The Raw Material: How to Make Wine Red

 In the time of the Great Gatsby, clothes certainly did make the man. However, strip away the illusion of fashionable wealth; what have you got? The naked truth. To Mark Twain, clothes were a bare necessity when he remarked that clothes only made the man since the naked were rarely taken seriously. For Ayn Rand, author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, regardless of whether we wore rags or riches, we were all the same underneath. In fact, she was willing to “skin humanity to prove it”. When you consider that a bottle of 1997 Domaine de la Romanée Conti can command up to $1,540, it’s not what’s underneath that counts but rather, what the best-dressed grape is wearing this year.

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Let the Credits Roll

Local Specialties, Workhorses and Common Blends

 It never ceases to amaze me that very few moviegoers stay for the credits. If you think about it, without those hundreds, even thousands of off-screen players contributing behind the scenes, that film, whether Oscar material or not, would remain an unfulfilled idea. We take those who do the back-office work for granted. Drudge work, if not done, not only makes or breaks a film production, it could also topple businesses. These are your unsung heroes who give their all and get neither glory nor credit for their contributions to a successful outcome. Included in the legions of unsung heroes are several underappreciated workhorses in the world of wine. As the credits roll on Chapter 3 of How to Taste by Jancis Robinson, let’s take the time to appreciate the role these unsung varietals play in the production of some of the world’s renowned wines.

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Skeletons in the Closet

The White Pinot Family

  The newest hobby of the Internet generation seems to be tracing one’s ancestry. My prince of a brother-in-law has been so dedicated to tracing his roots that the wave of enthusiasm has swept not only his family, but has rippled over to his extended family, me included. But long before finding our roots became the thing to do, there was a group of dedicated detectives tracking the origins and migration of, not man, but the grape. They are known as ampelographers. Amazingly, with the advent of DNA testing in the genealogical game of connecting the ancestral dots, some of those newly discovered dots have been the key to unlocking some provocative pedigrees.

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The Catwalk

Rhone Whites

 A catwalk can be a narrow walkway high above a stage, or a fashionable ‘runway’ where the pin-up pulchritude of haut couture parades the latest fashions of Paris, New York, London and Milan.  But catwalks are not the exclusive domain of the Heidi Klums of the world. There is another world of vogue – the world of varietal and viniculture – where the grape models the designs of the winemaker.

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If Away I Be, It’s Woe is Me

Chenin Blanc

 A director once told me, “If given the choice between directing talent that gives me too much rather than too little, I’ll take too much any day.” The reason: it’s easier to trim back rather than graft on. Otherwise, it would be like trying to press water out of a stone. And yes, there are grapes that have so much ‘talent’ that all it takes is the seasoned direction of a skilled vintner to trim back the excess and get the fruit of those vines to shine. However, such ‘talent’, if not properly exploited, can pale in less skilled hands or even in less familiar environments.

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Sweet Lies


 It is a public relations nightmare when a business has to do double-duty damage control on two fronts. At best it’s an uphill battle; at worst it’s a proverbial ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ scenario. Having said that, I would like to dedicate this session to a certain Tom van Tiger whose fierce dedication to one grape in particular has taught both me and my palate not to toss the baby out with the bath water.

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Someday My Prince Will Come


  I am amazed at just how plugged into pop culture Mad Dog is despite his protests of having absolutely no interest in it whatsoever. Naturally I have to ask, “If you’re not interested, how come you know so much?” to which he replies, “Because it’s omnipresent. You see it on the news, you read it in the newspapers and hear it on the radio. Wherever you go, it goes.  It simply hogs the spotlight.” This can also happen with wines. If a certain type of wine is currently in fashion, its hype can be so pervasive that you may hear about it to the exclusion of anything else.

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