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words with winemakers Print
Written by Nikitas Magel   

Five WinemakersRM:  But diversity is good!

EV:  Diversity is good.  And so are stylistic choices.

MR:  I hope that diversity explodes!  That would be a beautiful thing in terms of the proliferation of small labels: a million different styles — how wonderful would that be? — instead of five hundred examples of something that all tastes the same.

Thoughts on the Ups and Downs of Winemaking

NM:  What do you find most rewarding about making wine, whether it be under your own label or for a winery, and conversely, what do you find about your work that's challenging and that you wish you could change?

SJ:  I love the entire process of making wine.  I love the tangible nature of having the bottle at the end of the day and saying, "I made this."  I love being in the vineyards.  I love the energy of harvest.   And I love not only taking something that has a real sense of place but also putting my stamp on it through the choices I make and through the process of blending.  I think it's a great career for me.  The hard part is the sales aspect because there's so much competition.  I just wish I could bring everyone into the winery, walk them through the vineyards and caves, have them taste out of barrel and explain why I love it all so much.  Selling wine is not the reason I got into making wine.  And though it's definitely a really important part of the process, I would say it's the least exciting part for me.  Another challenge is that every vintage is different and some years are very stressful — that's the part that keep me up at night, wondering what Mother Nature will throw at us next.  Every year we say, "This is the most stressful harvest ever!  I've never seen anything like this!  Why can't we get a normal year?"  But there's really no such thing as a normal year.  Then again, that's also what makes it so fun!

"We're making something that's a snapshot in time. It all ties back to being connected with the seasons."

RM:  We can bitch and moan about topics all day, but there is no way I would do anything else!  Making wine is the best thing in the world; I love everything about it!  One of the most rewarding experiences happens when I open a bottle that I made or even a friend made — that's the best thing because there you have a finished product that you created.  We may say that we wished a bottle turned out perfectly every time or that every vintage would be great, but that's not really true because then we'd never get the same satisfaction as when we do accomplish something great, after all the blood, sweat, and tears.  And so, at the end of the day, I wouldn't change a thing!

MR:  I love that the nature of the work changes with the seasons.  Doing different things based on what part of year it is, you feel so connected with the passage of time.  I love that.  I love being out in the vines — in the winter for pruning, at budbreak, through the summer, and during [grape] pick.  I love being able to take something from that first little green bud at the beginning of the year, all the way through the growing season, into fermentation, then years on in the bottle, and finally having that to share over a meal in the good company of friends.  Plus, there's the fact that you're making something that's a snapshot in time.  It all ties back to being connected with the seasons.  I couldn't find it any more rewarding than I already do.  On the flip side, though, I hate bottling and I also hate sales — it drives me crazy!  I just want to open a bottle with people and say, "Drink this with me!  If you like it, you know where to get more!"  Another thing I hate is the government; they need to get off my back!  I just want to make some wine and get it to people!

Fermentation TanksEV:  Personally, I love not working in a fluorescent cubbyhole somewhere. {chuckling} And I love measuring my life in seasons.  It's all very enchanting.  The disenchanting part is that, in the end, it's a business that has to work.  I think it's very easy to get carried away in the beauty of this land and this product, but somewhere at the end of the line, somebody's got to make a profit.  I think it's probably easier when you own your own brand to stay aware that it's got to be a functioning business.  I really lose touch with that, making wine for somebody else.  Overall, I'm in love with this piece of land and every year I do the best job that I can.  And I hope I can keep doing it until I retire!