Comments: 831 • Responses: 41  • Date: 

LeeHarveyShazbot414 karma

What is your opinion on the tests that have shown even professionals can't tell a cheap wine from an expensive one when the bottles are switched?

edit: worst AMA since Harrelson

Paganfc23 karma

Almost an hour in and not one answer to any questions? Either he wasn't expecting much replies or he has jumped ship!

As soon as I saw this AMA, that test came to mind. I'd like to hear his opinion. OP will surely deliver?

WesStrikesBack2 karma

Anyone order a winemaker?

Hotpeanut10 karma

Maybe he posted and then went away for two hours and then will do a shotgun reply after all the questions are posted? would be an interesting tactic.

WesStrikesBack2 karma

I apologize for the delay.

WesStrikesBack6 karma

Some of my posts aren't showing up.

Professional tasters normally arent thinking of dollar signs, we're thinking quality and balance. So if a cheap wine is a gold medal, it's a gold medal, Two Buck Chuck or no.

A lot of wine judges are forced to do a triangle tasting before being allowed to judge.

You judge three wines, then they switch the order secretly, and you have to give the same awards to the three wines.

Sorry I didn't do better than Woody.

WesStrikesBack5 karma

I have seen wine judges (4) each give the same wine a different award: no medal, bronze, silver, gold, and have also heard James laube at the Wine Spectator admit that his palate has better days and days when his mood can impact his tasting. So wine is certainly subjective. I prefer panel tasting, so we can stop, retaste and discuss.

DigitalChocobo36 karma

This question popped up in AskReddit in the middle of the night once, and I would like to hear a professional's response:

What wine would you pair with a Crunchwrap Supreme?

WesStrikesBack5 karma

Beer, likely a nice Pranqster.

Spicy foods exacerbate heat and make alcohol taste hot.

DoingDonuts27 karma

What are your thoughts on craft beer? Craft beer seems to be making quite a surge in the market, and while some winemakers are unhappy about that, it seems like others have created symbiotic relationships with brewers (i.e. Russian River, Firestone Walker). Thanks!

WesStrikesBack6 karma

I drink a LOT of beer. My problem is with the overwrought nature of American craft right now. Over ripe, over oaked wines, over hopped beers and burnt coffee.

LOVE the Firestone 805--can't get it outside Santa Barbara CVountyb though. Bring the balance back!

Enpoli2 karma

I'm right there with you on that. I love some good beer, but I feel like most of the American breweries feel like every offering needs to be dialed over 9000 is some particular aspect.

Any recommendations for a nice malty Blonde/Amber Ale? Maybe something British?

WesStrikesBack2 karma

Easy to find and fucking great: Samuel Smith's Old Brewery Organic Ale. Certified Organic Golden amber color. Aromas of praline cookie and doughy golden raisin scone with a round, lively dry-yet-fruity medium body and a toasty, multigrain bread, roasted corn pudding, and wonderful crisp leafy, pepper greens hop finish. A fantastic food beer. (tasted on Mar-10-2011)

Enpoli2 karma

Awesome, thank! I love their Oatmeal Stout, so I don't know why I didn't give this one a try before.

WesStrikesBack3 karma

Pleasure! Drink and be well.

sciencemax25 karma

I'm 19 and I guess I haven't really developed a palate for wine yet, but I would really like to. I find most wines I taste to be fairly bitter and not enjoyable to drink. Do you have any recommendations for an overall delicious wine that you think anyone would enjoy?

SirJefferE6 karma

Try mead. It's fairly similar to white wine but probably easier to start with if you don't have the taste for it yet. At least that's how my experience has been, but I brew and drink a lot of mead.

If it's available locally, spiced mead is pretty great. Something with cloves in it.

WesStrikesBack3 karma

Mead is a hard beverage to love right away, IMO. I make mead a few times a year so I can drink like a Viking!

Torquesmaggy19 karma

What's your favorite type of sweet berry wine?

Edit: fer your wine!

WesStrikesBack3 karma

Iowa and Ohio make some of the best in the world. I really like blackberry and blueberry wine, the dryer the better, but sweet once in a while is fine.

greyztaxi2 karma

to piggyback on that, was wine really invented by the Romans?

WesStrikesBack2 karma

Nope, wine predates human history and all we can do is look at arch. evidence in the form of pottery shards and petrified grape seeds. Those point to the trans-caucuses (Armenia, Azerb, Georgia, Turkey) as the first place where a wine industry was launched by 6500 BCE.

The first use of wine as a celebratory beverage politically was 860 BCE when the Assyrians celebrated the completion of the ancient city of Nimrud. Before ten, all mesopotamian celebrations included almost exclusively beer.

MikeFSU8 karma

I'm a 21 year old who works at a wine and spirits store, and designed a beer list for a gourmet food store. I'm currently studying hospitality management. Do you need an intern?

WesStrikesBack5 karma

I am always willing to help those just starting out. Send me an email: [email protected]

fonttastic_plastic6 karma

hi, OP, and thanks for doing this. could you please answer a question? any question?

WesStrikesBack6 karma


pirieca3 karma


WesStrikesBack2 karma

Hi, there, sorry for the delay.

2LabsGuy3 karma

Did the OP die?

WesStrikesBack2 karma

Nope,wa s pouring wines for some lovely ladies 4 hours away. 8 hours of driving was the killer.

Work: the curse of the drinking class.

derpinita3 karma

How much money do you make?

WesStrikesBack4 karma

About $65k a year including my sales bonuses. I also have a house and truck here on the vineyard.

anal_pubes3 karma

To drink or not to drink? That is my question.

WesStrikesBack2 karma

Those who drink moderately live 5-7 years longer on average.

10% of the enzymatic function of the liver (Euro) is to produce an enzyme that searches the blood stream for ethanol and converts it into energy.

If you are religious, God created your body to drink.

If you are an unapologetic atheist like me, we have evolved to take about 10% of our daily calorie intake in the form of fermented beverages.

Every mammal is attracted to the smell of glycolysis.

This is not a tough question...

anal_pubes2 karma

Thanks for the response.

WesStrikesBack2 karma

Any time! Usually late! :-)

somnisium3 karma

have you tasted some "celebrity"-wines that you enjoyed?

i heard Maynard James Keenan's "Nagual del Judith" from Caduceus Cellars got an excellent review (94 or 96?), but i'd be interested to hear your oppinion from a wine that originates from Arizona.

WesStrikesBack2 karma

Most celebrity wines are priced to add the value of the celbrity, and are not wines I seek out.

I've heard Greg Norman's wines are pretty good.

Kyle Knox, sick ass surfer, makes a Napa Cab called 'The Barrel' which is actually very, very good.

chant81813 karma

In my experience with pinot noir, it is my finding that Oregon pinots are superior to California pinots when added to a steak dinner. My question is, what makes an Oregon pinot different from a California pinot, save the production locations, that would cause it to be better when combined with steak?

WesStrikesBack3 karma

Pinot speaks of time and place. Oregon is on the 45th paralell, like Burgundy, and Oregon loves to attach their marketing to that fact. At that latitude, you will see wildly different vintages. Very good wines one year, thin plonk the next. CA is more consistent, generally has more extract and fruit. For steak, I would go with a Santa Rita Hills 2010--big, slutty and rich. Oregon Pinot matches better with plank salmon, delicate dishes that are more traditionally matched with red Burgundy.

Pinot Noir is the only red wine that is structured by acidity more than tannin, so a good pinot will match about anything on a plate. If you like OR PN with a steak, try an experiment and drink a Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc with a steak with an 'au Poivre' sauce. You may have discovered a new trend that a lot of Somms are playing with: structured white wine with steak.

xbl4ck0utx3 karma

How often to do you get drunk/hammered/smashed/wasted?

WesStrikesBack2 karma

I have not been blackout drunk since I was 17. Beer bonged Wild Turkey.

I drink at least 4 times a day though, and keep a breathalyzer with me 24/7.

Don't get me wrong, I love to get tipsy and have fun, I just believe in the Euro tradition of a drunk man has no game. None. he looks like a fucking idiot with no self control.

DanjuroV3 karma

What do you have to say about wine judges being tricked into giving a budget wine a high rating because it was presented as an expensive one?

WesStrikesBack3 karma

Most competitions include price category with their wine categories.

So we generally know we are drinking 'Unoaked 2010 Chardonnay, $0.00-$10.00 for example.

I raise my rubric for more expensive wine. A $100 wine has to be pretty goddamn good for me to give it a gold medal, but a $10 wine needs only be balanced and tasty, and without noticable fault.

gambiergump3 karma

What do you think the future of wine brings? How soon do you think Stelvin closures will take over most wines?

How do you get paid to judge alcohol?


WesStrikesBack2 karma

Better wines continue to come out with less cost. We are ain a golden age. I am drinking more wines from outside the West Coast: Missouri Norton, Finger lakes Rieslings, and I think as wine patriots we owe the US industry to swerve out and drink wines from all over the fruited plain. Stelvin are the future, I put them in all of my wines under $30, and close the others with a technical cork called DIAM 10.

Becoming a wine judge is like anything else. Nepotism and positioning. Take the Wine Eval classes at UC davis with John Buechenstein, and then taste every week with a group of geeks or those studying for WSET. When your palate has sick chops, start sending gentle and respectful emails to those who run the competitions and ask if they would like to try out a competeent wine judge that is just starting out, but who has a great palate and knows how to get along with other tasters.

My first gig came when an Italian judge missed his plane and I sent an email at the right time. I carried water and did everything I could to help at that competition, volunteered for clean up and dishes, and I get invited back every year. I get paid about $150 a day and am asked to taste about 100 wines in that 6 hour day.

RebeccaLaLa2 karma

In your opinion, what is the best "cheap" wine? I'm talking Barefoot, Little Penguin, Yellowtail, etc. Something you can find at any wine retailer.

WesStrikesBack2 karma

Go Aussie or Argentina. Aussie kicks our as at $20 and below.

I love Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma for about $12

and Rosemount Shiraz or PenfoldsShiraz at the low end.

Lecanoscopy2 karma

Why does Pinot Noir pair so great with peanut butter cups...or am I a complete philistine?

WesStrikesBack2 karma

Pinot noir matches with everything because it is a red wine structured more by acidity than tannin.

The cherry flavor likely pairs with the chocolate and the fat from the peanut butter balances the acifdity and monomeric tannins.

And the fact that you're drinking Pinot Noir takes you far from the philistine category. thanks for drinking the good stuff!

spicyfishtacos2 karma

What do you think of "Vin Jaune" for the Jura region of France?

WesStrikesBack2 karma

I am not a fan of macerated, sherrified white wines in general, but I have had some white wines that were left on the skins in amphora underground for a year without sulfites, and they were spectacularly...how do I say--unique and changed what I believed a white wine could be.

Not my style, but I love the idea of going back in time and playing with ancient vinification technique. Palmina, locally, makes a wine in this style and has the geeks all aflutter.


do you know sine qua non winery?

WesStrikesBack2 karma

I have met Manfred Krankl and know his wines quite intimately.

WeaselTerror2 karma

How important is it to be a supertaster?

How much of the gap between being a supertaster and not can be overcome by knowledge and training?

Where to normal tasters get left behind?

WesStrikesBack2 karma

Supertasters are very important. I tested close, but my wife is a supertaster, and has been confirmed at UC Davis.

Having a Y chromosomes is a huge problem. Women have 1/3 higher taste bud density and a much greater chance of having supertasting chops.

I have to pay very close attention when I evaluate wine. After a day of 75-100 wines, I generally feel hungover and like I got whacked in the head by a 2x4. Its like taking the LSAT wasted, but not getting any of the nice feelings of drinking.

Nothing in my life requires more concentration than when i am evaluating a wine with my almost-supertaster senses. So we compensate, guys!

GenericAwesome2 karma

Why don't more wineries in the US make grappa? Is it just a demand thing?

WesStrikesBack2 karma

We make grappa! Mostly because you cant distill and make wine in the same building. Legally, that is...

We have our grappa made up in Mountain View with Danger Dave Classick.

And most grappa is volatile as fuck and is about as easy to love as a pornstar porcupine.

The-Dougger2 karma

I have been seriously thinking about starting a vineyard/winery on some land I own in West Virginia. Do you have any advise/tips for someone just starting out? Anything you wish you knew when you started?

WesStrikesBack2 karma

Only plant a vineyard if you can't stand not doing so.

It's a huge time and money pit that rarely gives back what we want.

What varietals are you considering? Soil types, acreage?

1: Someone is always better at growing grapes than you, and you should make sure that person is your good friend.

2: Every hour of pre-plant research will save at least 100 hours of labor once the vineyard is planted. You will have to get out of that chair, off the internet and get your shoes dirty. Googling ‘Home Vineyard’ will not get you growing good grapes; unless you want to fail, learn from your lessons and then replant. Here’s how I would do it if I could go back in time: Get a degree at UC Davis or Fresno in viticulture and enology. Charm and bribe my professors so I can exploit them later. Attend trade tastings, farm and viticulture shows, work in experimental and university vineyards, take notes and develop my chops before I plant my own vineyard.

3: Planting a few ‘test vines’ is a smart move—and do so a few years before the entire vineyard goes in. My guess is that over half of backyard vineyards fail and are abandoned in the first 5 years. Most fail because of neglect or ignorance, but some fail because the soil/climate cannot support varietal winegrape production. You can get two grapevines for about $10, plant them in the center of the area of where you’d like to plant, let the soil dry out between deep irrigations, and see how the vines react ‘real time’ to their potential home.

4: Work/volunteer in a commercial vineyard for an entire year if you can, volunteer or paid, weekends or as often as you can. Work in the nearest vineyard to your house, either a home vineyard or commercial vineyard and learn the physical, ‘kinesthetic’ side of viticulture.

6: Balance and consistency in canopy management is the single most important viticultural step towards wine quality. You must plant the vine varieties and rootstock that are best suited to make delicious wine in your locale, but other than that you need to manage your canopy between May and October. This should be about 70% of your yearly work in the vineyard, so be prepared to use a lot of your late Spring and Summer to work in the vineyard and get that canopy tidy!

7: There are University Extension and Outreach programs to help most of you. Most States recognize that grape growing and wine production is a great way to encourage tourism and the tax base. With commercial winegrapes being grown in all but a few States in 2013, most State Universities have some type of outreach program to help both pioneers and old salts grow better fruit. Here’s where you bust out your Google. Go now, I’ll wait. No programs? You can always request one from a local politician or University administrator.

8: Heavier equipment and the right tools are always worth the price. If you can swing a small tractor in your vineyard, you should do everything you can to save your pennies and get one. There’s a reason that farming changed after the invention of the diesel-powered tractor. There are now a whole slew of small-sized tractors and specialized implements, and having the ability to run a real, PTO-powered sprayer, disc, French plow, or even leaf-plucking or pre-pruning attachments will revolutionize how much one person can do in your vineyard. Even ATV’s are available with PTO’s these days (a PTO is a rotating drive shaft that powers farm implements). Backpack sprayers are problematic, as they often do not have the pressure required to apply material past one leaf layer in the vines. Full coverage is key, which may mean two passes down each side of a row with a low-pressure sprayer. Buying heavy duty pruners, heavier trellising materials and hardware, high tension wire; I recommend buying the best of anything for installing a home vineyard so you only have to do it once per generation.

9: Keep sprays on schedule and never exceed the application rate on the label. Use the heaviest spray rig you can afford or power, one that really gets high pressure spray into the vine’s canopy for coverage. If you want to check coverage, buy some agricultural dye (like Hi Light Blue Spray Indicator, $20) and after spraying study leaves and the green clusters under a magnifier to see how much coverage is being applied inside the canopy, directly to the fruit. You may be upset to see that only a few droplets are landing on the fruit, where they are most needed. Most fungicides available to home growers require coverage and contact to be efficient (stylet oil, sulfur, copper), so getting proper coverage is just as important as using proper, recommended application rates and dilutions. As far as scheduling, I recommend starting with the smallest interval recommended (every 5-9 days means spray every 5 days to start), and if you get full control, add a day to the interval each year until you see disease return, then increase back to last year’s timing. Stylet oil and sulfur are elemental and your vines should not become resistant to those materials.

10: Harvesting at night improves wine quality and is very pleasant. It seems like a huge pain, and you will need headlamps and some shop lights, but allow me to suggest that once you harvest and crush at night you will never pick in sunshine again. The fruit is cooler, the night is quiet and inviting. Trust me: try night harvest and you’ll never look back. Offer Irish Coffee to your friends and make it sound like a party. It’s quite romantic (for the first 30 minutes).

11: Get help before the vineyard gets away from you. A vineyard is like a business. It needs constant attention, love and hard work to thrive. And like a business, it’s easy to lose your focus and watch it whittle away to something that steals your money and efforts without giving anything back. A vineyard doesn’t understand that your kids need a Summer trip to the shore. A vineyard doesn’t understand that you really need a weekend on the couch watching the NBA Finals. A vineyard IS a child, and will react according to the attention and thoughtfulness applied to it. No one said growing wine would be easy. Suck it up and go take care of it. Try to do an hour every day to keep the weekend work from growing debilitating. Tired? There’s probably a few neighborhood kids that could use some $10/hour physical labor to remind them that texting and TV don’t build character.

12: Don’t water or fertilize unless the vines need it. If the vines grow in a balanced manner and have between 3’-6’ of yearly cane growth and about 12-15 leaves per cluster, you don’t have to do a darn thing. European grapevines come from an area with about 30” of annual rainfall, and I usually use about 24” as an average for those that want to ‘dry farm’. Vines that stay stunted or the leaves are misshapen or jaundiced (yellow or creamy yellow/green) throughout the growing season may need a little fertilizer. Using a 15-15-15 formulation with micronutrients will ameliorate most deficiencies, but do not fertilize after veraison if you can avoid it, as extra nitrogen will slow ripening and dormancy.

13: Join a winegrowing group and carry your weight. Many cities have home winegrowing hobbyist groups, and if yours doesn’t, think about starting one! Advertise on Craig’s List or FaceBook and you may be surprised how many home wine warriors emerge from the ether. Have monthly tasting parties where everyone brings a bagged home wine and a commercial wine, and taste them all blind—together or separate. Work together on pruning, invite local commercial growers and winemakers to come and pour, sell and speak. Gain a reputation for being good buyers and winemakers will always make time for you. Ask to volunteer in local cellars and commercial vineyards. Offer to serve as President, Treasurer or Secretary to give yourself equity and influence.

14: Travel, visit vineyards, take notes and buy wine from good farmers. You’ve heard this one before if you’ve read my articles, but this really does bear repeating. Travel is the currency of wine passion and education, and making friends with winemakers through supporting their businesses is key. I have a home winemaking friend who is also the Key Grip on the original NCIS television show. He buys Chardonnay almost every year from our vineyard, buys a few cases of wine every year, and we golf every few months. He’s friendly, funny, and he’s a great customer. He also bugs me every once in a while to evaluate a home wine, or asks for some S02, or borrows some yeast, buys a barrel, etc. Instead of keeping me on a consultation retainer of $1000+/year, he buys $1000 worth of wine annually and I’m always happy to help him with anything he needs. Find your expert, determine what he/she loves, and deliver!

15: Subscribe to WineMaker, Wines and Vines, Wine Business Monthly and Practical Vineyard and Winery magazines. Page. Get your questions answered every week for free!

Tallas132 karma

How can you say one wine tastes better than another when taste is personal preference and everybody has their own personal preference?

When making your decisions, are you trying to judge by your own personal tastes, or are were you in some way trained to seek out flavors that society deemed appealing?

If its the later, what makes you trust the person who you got the information from?

WesStrikesBack2 karma

Critics are tools. Literally and figuratively. If a critic or judge likes similar wines to you, use them. If not, fuck them and their shitty palate.

In a real US wine culture we wouldnt need points or critics. We would feel comfortable making our own decisions on wines we love to drink.

20 years ago, when the market was awash with godawful plonk, critics were needed. the economy has washed most shitty wine away, and its becoming harder and harder to find faulty wine, mainly due to the cellar sanitation movement that started in the US in the late 70's and 80's.

Here's the real issue: Wines are judged 'blind' in huge flights (20-100), and the big scores are given to wines that stand out, are 'huge' and cannot be ignored.

At table, where wine is used, the value of a wine is INTEGRATION with the meal. Critics want heavy metal, geeks want jazz.

Your palate definitely rules. Trust it and keep drinking!

WesStrikesBack2 karma

I have spent the last 5 hours doing all i could to pay back the good questions that all my redditors posed.

Sorry for the delay, i pride myself in fun and meaningful wine education, and I hope my answers will help you enjoy wine more and ignore all the pretentious crap involved.

Cheers! Drink more, damn you!

combatchuck1032 karma

For my senior project in Graphic Design I have decided to make a faux wine company identity with a logo and physical products. My biggest barrier has been finding out what the industry standard for paper and adhesive is for the bottle label is. Any insight into what kind of materials I should be looking for?

WesStrikesBack2 karma

Sure! Google three or four wine label producers, then here's what you do. Write this letter to them;

"Hi! I work with Axis Mundi Wines (my second label, but you can use it) in (wherever you are) and we are looking to change our label. We make just under 100,000 cases a year and are looking for some samples from yuor company and a bunch of paper.adhesive options. Can you send me samples and any info? I'm new to the industry, but have the decision making power, so please help me in an y way you can!'

combatchuck1032 karma

Wow. Thanks for this!

WesStrikesBack2 karma


haz-man2 karma

Can you describe you best experience with a wine?

Where you where when you drank it Who you were with The weather The feeling as you drank etc

WesStrikesBack2 karma

First, let me say its far more important WHO we drink with than WHAT we drink. I'd rather slurp plonk with my boys than a Romanee Conti with a douchebag.

I've also been drinking fine wine since I was seven, which gave me a great foundation. Like having two english profs for parents so you could make it through Ulysses at 15.

That said, here's what I write about my first seminal wine experience.

This was published in the Burgundy Report a few years back:

I remember the exact moment when I was initiated into the higher wisdom of all things Burgundian. It was January 11, 1999 and I was visiting Bourgogne for the first time. Bill Clinton was being impeached live on CNN, and if we weren’t knee deep in delicious food and wonderful Pinot Noir we might have cared. On that fateful evening Steve Pepe, my mother Catherine and I were dining at the Rotisserie de Chambertin, This was my first meal in Burgundy, and our host (the owner) spoke wonderful English and quickly found out that we owned a Pinot Noir vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara California. We ate eggs poached in day-old Chambertin, we ate delicious snails and fresh crusty bread. For our main dish we all shared a huge cut of blood-rare Chalonnais beef—which is the equivalent of Grand Cru AOC cow. The food was honest and delicious, but the monumental moment was a wine: the first Burgundy that ever made me cry. Pundits throw the word ‘epiphany’ around with little respect for the true power of the word, but I am here to tell you that my life was changed as a result of what I tasted that night. There’s not many wines that you can isolate in your memory and say THAT bottle made me decide to dedicate my life to Pinot Noir. Maybe you remember with similar clarity the first wine that struck your head and your olfactory sensibilities with an undeniable, complex profundity. I will admit sincerely that when I swirled that (slightly brickish) garnet-colored potion (a.k.a. 1972 L. Trapet Chappelle-Chambertin) and deeply whiffed its bouquet, I suddenly realized that there was some deep truth in the hyperbole and hoopla surrounding the Cult of Pinot Noir—and more specifically, the Cult of the Perfect Bourgogne. Here’s the tasting notes I made that night at the Chateau de Gilly: ‘Harmonious nose suggesting the deeper secrets of Burgundian terroir--opened up with both the sternness of solid acid and the muscle of seriously intense fruit and perfect cellaring. In the mouth: plum and dry spice, understated game and leather--this wine, if needed to be categorized, was light of color and mostly feminine in taste profile--light extraction, super-fine sediment that tasted of smoke. Spicy roundness that builds with bottle-aged fruit flavors, violet and rose petal in the nose and mouth, building into a massive feminine beast still hinting of vanilla, oak and herb. After tasting the wine with us, our host at the Rotisserie de Chambertin said two things: (On opening the bottle): 'This wine waited for tonight to be perfect.' (on finishing the bottle): 'The last drink is like saying goodbye to an old friend. The man spoke with a nearly religious intensity and regaled us for an hour with stories and anecdotes about the region of Chambertin.’ My experience that night piqued my interest as a viticulturist. Like most young winegrowers/winemakers I wanted to see what the Burgundians were doing in the vineyard and in the winery, absorb their secrets, and take them home to improve the Pinot Noir I grow in the Santa Rita Hills. As strange as it seems, though, the opposite happened. As I spent the next week kicking the dirt and crouching over vines from Marsannay to Montrachet, I quickly decided that any attempt to replicate Burgundian vineyard practices in Santa Barbara County would be lunacy. Everywhere you go in Bourgogne, you are met with colorful stories, analogies and anecdotes about winegrowing and winemaking. Like any culture, the Burgundians teach their most sacred values to their children (and their cellar rats) through mythology, parable and story. The aim of Burgundian culture is to produce profound and delicious wines for table—and any area’s mythology will be grounded in the attempt to successfully guide that culture to its goal. The problem is that the Mythology of the Vine in Burgundy is founded upon principles of viticulture and enology that have been practiced (and therefore inflected) regionally for more than eight centuries. The Mythology of Burgundy is perfectly suited to the defined boundaries of Burgundy. Go to Chablis or Beaujolais and the Mythology changes visibly. Bringing back the Burgundy Religion to the New World is a tricky business, and one that is not likely to translate into profound wines. It’s sort of like visiting India and bringing back the beliefs of an obscure sect of Hinduism to Minnesota. You can practice the religion outside the region where it was developed—but it’s not going to feel as ‘right’, because every place creates a vibrant system of myth and pedagogy which evolves to support the aims of the people that live there (and only there). Maybe I’m over-thinking this, but stay with me. The pruning techniques, rootstock selection and trellising systems used in Burgundy have developed over centuries to produce good fruit on poor, clay profiles with limestone subsoils. Using a similar trellising system (or pruning style, or similar rootstocks) in the Santa Rita Hills would expose the vines to more mildew and frost damage, and would not match the potential vigor and growth cycle of Pinot Noir vines. Burgundy has a much shorter growing season than we do in Santa Barbara County, but the stems over there are often more lignified (woody) when the fruit is picked. Riper stems give the Burgundians more of an option of stem-inclusion in their fermentations to add grip and mouth feel. Using the same ‘recipe’ for winemaking might produce stemmy, overly-herbaceous wines in Santa Barbara that would detract from the purity of fruit. So when I returned from Burgundy in 1999 and met up with some of my winemaker cronies, they asked what I learned in Burgundy that would help me make better wines. I thought for a second and replied, ‘Nothing really. I think we should leave Burgundy in Burgundy.’ It’s a daunting task to develop a new mythology for the Santa Rita Hills, but we have had a few good prophets early in our short history. What I learned in Burgundy is that we are babies in their world. We struggle to understand how to best grow and ferment Pinot Noir in our little part of the world. Burgundians grow up in a culture dominated by a deep respect for food and steeped in their own regional Vine Myth. We still live in a culture more interested in Nike and McDonalds than cuisine and the craft of winemaking. We can only hope that, eight centuries hence, that each American Viticultural Area will have its own mythology, and that we will have learned that emulating Burgundy can only divert our attempts to create a true regional identity.