May 2008 Archives
By now you've probably heard about Robert Mondavi's death. His passing has been covered widely in wine publications and industry journals as well as national radio and television. His accomplishments were legendary and his foresight paved the way for an entire industry, the fine wine industry.
For me, his death is more symbolic. Robert Mondavi and others who've passed before him (Rodney Strong, Hans Kornel, Joe Heitz) were the inspiration of the next generation of vintners, the David Stare's of the world. I can remember sitting around the dinner table and hearing my parents talk about Mr. Mondavi. They spoke of him with great respect and admiration. They too wanted to share in the dream of producing world class wines from a largely unheard of place in the world. (Remember - back then France was the dominant player and few if any other regions rivaled French wines in terms of quality or quantity.) My folks even named their debut release, a mere 350 cases of 1972 Sauvignon Blanc, Fumé Blanc, upon seeing the success Mr. Mondavi was having with his newly coined term.
It saddens me to think about the tragic twists the Mondavi family took in the last decade or so. There are poignant lessons for families such as ours the result of rapid expansion, loss of control, going public, spreading oneself too thin, dilution of quality, and family dysfunction. I understand there were huge rifts between father and children and my fondest hope would be that the family had heeled these wounds prior to Mr. Mondavi's passing. Otherwise, what good is the creation of a legacy without the love and harmony of one's family?
About 10 years ago I had my only Mondavi encounter. Not with Bob, but rather with son Michael. I had just developed our Endeavour Cabernet label. We were very excited about coming up with the name Endeavour (Captain Cook's ship that sailed around Cape Horn) until I found out that Mondavi Winery was also using the name for a holding company they owned. Without their blessing, I couldn't trademark the name, nor would it have been wise to continue to use it. So, I wrote a letter and sent it to the winery. About 2 weeks later I received a call on my cell phone. I was in my skivvies in a dressing room at Banana Republic go figure. Michael had called to say it would be just fine to use the name and by the way, could he taste a bottle! I was very happy and relieved. He sent a lovely handwritten note after, which I still have today.I truly wish the remaining heirs much success, health and happiness. May their father's hopes and dreams continue to live on.
We may have to go on a diet soon. Not me (although I could stand to shed a few pounds, admittedly!) but rather, the glass we use for our beloved Endeavour Cabernet Sauvignon (799 case) bottling. While I've always loved this handsome manly bottle because of its mysterious, dark, masculine design, with today's concern over fuel costs and environmental impact of unnecessary packaging, it may be time we shed a few pounds. This was made all too clear by wine writer Linda Murphy's recent article, posted on Wine Review Online - A Weighty Issue. How embarrassing to be singled out as a toe stubber, (apparently she literally tripped over our bottle!) yet insightful as we strive to reduce our carbon footprint and practice sustainability throughout the company.
I suppose I ought to thank her for bringing this concern to the forefront of my brain. (It has been languishing in the back of my brain for some time now somewhere between the rising cost of French oak barrels, medical insurance, and frost concerns, and remembering to pick up the kids from soccer practice.) In other words, there always seems to be something more pressing to worry about around here.
So I'm on the hunt for a possible alternative for the '06 bottling. If we find one, it would probably mean giving up the 6 bottle wooden boxes to an equivalent sized cardboard one. And, of course, the whole package wouldn't be available until the release of the 2006 Endeavour, so we're talking July of 2009 or something like that.
In the meantime, I'm very curious to hear what you readers think about this subject. Are large size designer bottles grossly overdone and excessive, like an overly made up woman drawing unnecessary attention to herself? Or, do you see these uber-chic bottles as acceptable accoutrements for small lot wines in order to draw attention to the exquisite quality and limited nature of a particular bottling?
I guess it's that form over function question-- something I continually struggle with. Me, I'd pick form any day but I'm not sure that's the right decision here.
Will someone help me out on this one???
Last night was family night where the kids fix dinner for mom and dad and mom and dad get to sit on the porch drinking wine until dinner is served. It doesn't happen often but when it does, I feel like I've died and gone to heaven. (Except in heaven the hot dogs are grilled and the buns are warm.) We try to do this every now and again and it always results in a hilarious parody of what life is like for a 10 and 15 year old whose parents are in the wine business. Tonight it became clear that our children think our profession is well, absurd.
The Husband had just poured a glass of our yet to be released 2004 Endeavour Cabernet. We were out of regular clean wine glasses so we decided to use those flat bottomed indented ones that only us wine geeks have taken to because of the enhanced aromatic subtleties. Ahhhh, cherries, leather and bittersweet chocolate he pronounced upon taking a big sniff. Both kids started giggling and quickly rolled their eyes in disgust. There was a brief pause. We then asked the eldest what she thought it smelled like. She grabbed the glass and without hesitation responded, toilet cleanser. The youngest followed suit, sticking his short little turned up nose deep into the glass and adding that it helped clear out his sinuses and made his nose tickle too. Hmm. Not a good sign. Ostrich poop and cinnamon with a touch of vanilla. Dog breath and blackberries with a touch of pepper. The two waxed on poetically, expounding on the miraculous smells coming from the bouquet of this beloved wine. Smells that no self-respecting vintner, winemaker, or winery owner should ever have to subject themselves to smelling or hearing.
So, while friends of ours are bragging about the brilliant sensorial abilities of their offspring, ours are thumbing their noses at us in utter disgust.
So much for the future of the winery being in good hands!
May is FOO-May month at Dry Creek Vineyard. That's right, we're championing the wine that is the flagship of our winery by dedicating an entire month to a series of educational tastings, food and wine pairings, music and more. If you're in the area, it's a great time to join us in celebrating the intrinsically refreshing qualities of this often-misunderstood wine. Stop by any weekend in May from 10:30-4:30 to join the fun!
Best of all, we've launched a very cool new website, www.whatisfume.com. You simply have to check it out. It's your one stop shop for all things Fumé related, right down to especially designed recipes by our good friend, chef Tim Vallery who incidentally will be opening a hot new restaurant, Peloton, in Healdsburg soon. (Remember, you heard it here first!)
So, now's your chance to get all your Fumé questions answered. Come and join us for all the fun in the sun by visiting us during FOO-May month! (We've had some rain lately, so I just had to throw in this last sentence. You know, the power of persuasion and all that )
This is a blog about what it's really like to be in the wine industry...so sit back, take a sip and enjoy!
A Lifetime in Wine
Top 10 Traits of the Successful Family Winery
The Dreaded Family Meeting
Board Meeting Jitters
Is the Future of the Winery in Danger?
The Case of the Overweight Bottle
Wine and Dementia
Wanted: Talented (Normal) Individual for Family Owned Winery
A Sea of Wine
The Heroes of Our Industry