What is winecrafting all about?
The quick answer might be: “farming, intentionally spoiling grape juice, and a good buzz.” But, I won’t leave it at that.
I use the term “winecrafting” vs “winemaking” to make a point. I don’t really “make” anything. Yeast do the making. And while many people think of wine as an art, I see it as a craft. Unlike painting, sculpture, or music, you don’t need any special artistic gene to be successful in wine, with the possible exception that it requires a solid sense of smell (and thus, taste). Instead, wine, like any craft, simply demands dedication, practice, and learning the trade from the ground up as an apprentice under a suitable mentor.
There are wines out there that are merely about process and flavor, and they have their place. Just as your need for a cheap, reasonably-good-looking, functional office chair can be quickly filled by a trip to Office Depot to purchase a mass-produced piece of furniture, so too can acceptable-tasting wines be produced on a grand scale through manipulation. I sit on just such a chair in my office, and I’m not above drinking wine like that on occasion (well, on weeknights).
In fact, taking poorly-farmed fruit, and making palatable wines in mass quantities is an enological skill that I don’t possess. I’m honestly in awe at those in lab-coats who can do such things.
But my kindred spirit is the true furniture-crafter, working away in his barn/workshop in the backwoods of Vermont, methodically crafting a chair. He has a rough idea of his vision as he reviews his collection of exotic woods, selecting a heart cut of maple for its durability. He inspects the grain, the size, and the knots on this board, and sets in to mill the boards accordingly. During assembly, he draws on the skills he’s learned over the years, using tools that remain irreplaceable despite thousands of years of advancement in technology. When complete, the piece is sealed with the finest stain specially chosen to emphasize the knot he has skillfully left just off center in the heart of the seat.
To me, winecrafting is the same. It is about working with the proper land and vineyards to begin with. It is about farming with rapt attention and care, yet with the flexibility to respond to Mother Nature’s mood that year (and she is a moody soul). It is about hovering over fermentations, yet interceding only when necessary. The crafting is done by hand, using traditional tools that defy modernization and mechanization. Cooperage is like a spice rack, and filtration is performed only when absolutely necessary for soundness or in the case of a wine that desperately needs polishing.
“Kent's hand-crafted Pinot Noirs merit a try…big bodied, ruby-garnet wine with aromas of complex earthy black cherries and roses. Well balanced with a wonderful velvety taste and a long finish. 93 pts.”
--Patty’s Pinot Closet Newsletter
In the end
In the end, if the furniture crafter and winecrafter have done their jobs well, they have both created something that is sound in its core purpose (as something to sit upon and something to drink with dinner), but something also transcendent and esthetically pleasing to the soul. Moreover, it is the uniqueness of their respective works—grain and design in the furniture, reflection of vintage in the wine—that contributes to the beauty in a way not able to be captured by mass-production.
Moreoever, on a spiritual level, I believe wine, in all its biology, geology, chemistry and complexity, tells a story of all that has gone into its creation. The winecrafter’s job—my job—is to take all those complex individual stories of the land, the vineyard, the farmer, the vintage, the cellar, the cooper and the winecrafter himself, and select and link them to form the greater epic that becomes the bottle of wine. Finding an authentic farmer, a soulful piece of dirt, a colorful cooper, and a beautiful vineyard…this yields a wine—when crafted properly—that is ideally equally authentic, soulful, colorful, and beautiful.
Road 31 is a wine of place, craft, and story; I strive to deliver all that to the glass on your dinner table.