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making things better

May 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Hello again, from a distance… how are you?

I had my first glass of wine outdoors in 2010 this week, I hope you’ve been luckier. Despite the variety of time-zones and locales year-to-date, seems like I just haven’t had my synchronicity switch tripped. The glass of Gris (I should say glee!) I had in the sunshine did it for me, all is good with the world, summer is coming, hallelujah!

I had, this month, the unexpected pleasure of running into (after too many years not running into, I must add) the coolest of the cool wine guys we have in America, the inimitable Doug Frost MS MW. Doug is one of the wine world’s super geeks, both Master Sommelier and Master of Wine (I think the population of that species numbers three on the entire planet) but he is so much darn fun you tend to forget that! Nothing, not even the guffaw-laden hilarity which tends to happen a lot in his company, will dim the respect I have for this man. It was a huge bonus arriving at the Philbrook Museum (how beautiful a place that is) in Tulsa for their bi-ennial Wine Experience earlier this month, to discover that Doug was replacing the scheduled speaker! Of course, yes, I had to run up, gush, say ‘Hi! it’s been too long!’ The gracious Mr. Frost, a very proud Dad himself, even remembered my daughter from an Oregon trip many moons ago to Pinot Camp! Out-standing cool right there.

The really great thing though, was the cut glass clarity of the discussion he presented to a mostly trade assembly, about selling wine, educating about wine, enlarging our wine culture in these recessionary times. Boy, was he singing from my hymnbook. One line kept recurring.

‘can 40 million white zin fans be wrong?’

Doug challenged everyone there, almost exclusively wine professionals in different guises – distributors, winery principals (guilty), educators (guilty), restaurateurs, retailers… to lose our elitist, specialist hats for a moment and think about that statistic! Can 40 million people be wrong? Why IS white zin so popular, what IS it that has brought it to this position in the wine world?  He then presented some neat statistics for everyone to think about. The fastest growing varietal in the US? Riesling. Fastest growing RED varietal? Pinot Noir. The American wine drinker, as Doug put it, is leaning towards the light – lighter styles, that is. Bigger ain’t better any more y’all.

I then remembered a comment from an event earlier in the same week, coincidentally from another Master Sommelier (these guys are sharp). I had presented one of our zing! food and wine together workshops in Chicago, attended by amongst others Brett Davis MS, from Kentucky. Brett came up to me afterwards and said  ‘I was humbled by the simplicity in this presentation tonight, guys. It reminded me that I had forgotten to think like my customer’. I marvelled in hindsight that the same message was coming from both the experts and 40 million white zin drinkers.

Simplicity is what we’re looking for.

As human beings most people just want their lives to feel – better. And that desire is not confined to an age group, or a social stratum, but it is why 40 million people drink pink. That does NOT mean that simplicity is unsophisticated. Perhaps in fact, an appreciation of simplicity is the key to balancing all that other overly sophisticated and busy stuff.

I got to thinking afterwards, and yes it was over a glass of wine, about what we do, and what it all means to me (Gris does that sometimes, drags out the inner philosopher).  We make quite a few wines, you guys know that, some because they tell us a special secret about where they come from, be it a vineyard or just part of a vineyard, some because Rob just really really wants to make them, like his beloved bubbles and the port-we-can’t-call-port.

But the largest part of what we do is bigfire – pinot noir, pinot gris and rosé. They are the ‘gimme a glass right now, what a day I’ve had’ wines, the ‘this will so work, thank goodness I had a bottle here’ wine when the mother in law or the new neighbour drops in unexpectedly. They are honest, pure, made really (really) well and without artifice. Simply very good. You won’t need to be told why you like this style, they’re just delicious, Oregon wines that simply make life better.

So, although 40 million people currently drink pink for freshness, immediate appeal, broad ability to enjoy with food (that is SUCH a biggie), lots of other people with discerning, educated palates also seek out wines that show strong varietal typicity, distinctive regional identity, a mirror of the maker… and why? Same need, same reason, to make their life better.

When I had that glass of bigfire Gris outside last week, I realised it ticked all of those boxes. Now that is cool, is it not?  Perhaps that’s what Doug was pointing us towards, the sophistication in simplicity.

All right guys, I think I’ve worn this soapbox down today, but I’ve been dying to put all this into words. Till next time, be well and always – make your life better.



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