~In 1984 I started a small winery. I mean it was small, so small that I could produce my commercial wine in a two-car garage, which is what I had done.
~I cleared everything out of the garage, sprayed foam insulation on the walls, added a water line, sink, and drain system, stuck an air conditioner in it for the summer, and stocked it with small custom-made stainless steel tanks as well as oak barrels.
~Throughout the years I blithely went along producing Finger Lakes Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Chardonnay. I never knew that I was in the vanguard; in fact, I was a little embarrassed that I could not afford a larger more slick winery building.
~My garage winery lasted eight years, and in that time not one wine critic ever gave me any press—I think that had something to do with the fact that I was in upstate New York and most critics don’t know where that is.
~Finally, I ran out of money to keep the place going and so I decided it would be cheaper to close the winery and shine shoes for a living.
Note: I didn’t shine shoes. I did something even worse. I went to work for a wine distributor, which is when I really got my wine education!
~Not long after I ended my tiny American dream, I read a story about some people in Bordeaux who were starting wineries in garages. Since they were in Bordeaux—where at the time the world of wine critics and wine geeks salivated—the new “garagistes,” as they were called, gained attention, and then they gained acclaim.
The acclaim garage wines received did not, however, come from the traditional Chateaux and pedigree Bordeaux wine industry. In fact, from there came disparagement and predictions of doom.
~In the U.S. a few wine critics with the unhealthy power to make or break a winery or a wine movement took notice. This time, the critics generally chose to make rather than to break, and so the French garage winemakers accomplished what I could not: gain worldwide attention.
~The attention that the garagistes gained was accomplished even though their wines often seemed to have little to do with the Bordeaux pedigree. In fact, the attention they gained was because their wines were not like the old guard. Most of the wines were produced outside the French appellation control rules for Bordeaux.
Appellation rules dictate things like which grape varieties are approved for a region and some of the grape harvesting as well as winemaking production methods.
Appellation controls are supposed to give regional wines their signature.
~Instead of complying with appellation controls, the garagiste wines were creating personal signatures from garage to garage, using grapes and techniques that some would say made the wines taste more like they were being produced in California or Australia but certainly not in Bordeaux. Soon, the Bordeaux garage wines were a hit with consumers across the pond and all was well.
~Recently, the British wine magazine, Decanter, had a brief article in it about the possible impending doom of the garage guys in Bordeaux.
~Whenever an article like that appears in a British periodical the wine forum board dedicated to the American wine critic, Robert Parker, usually lights up like a Christmas tree on overload. Parker is one of the critics who took to the garages in Bordeaux.
~Soon, wine geeks were posting disparaging things about Decanter and some of its writers. Other wine geeks were defending the possible concept that the garage guys are dying off—figuratively.
~Even Mr. Parker chimed in, calling the impending demise of the garage guys merely a pipe dream and alluding to the possibility that some British wine writers don’t often know what they are talking about.
Mr. Parker has an annoying habit…he writes long paragraphs…which isn't annoying in itself...but he connects his thoughts that should be in sentence form in a funny way…he uses ellipses…an ellipsis is a three-dot format…its main function is to illustrate that something has been omitted…its other function is to illustrate that the something omitted is understood without explanation…I wonder why Mr. Parker uses the dot format...does he never really finish a thought??? are we supposed to simply understand his unfinished thoughts??? is there such a thing as a question mark ellipsis???
~The whole thing—the earlier acceptance of garagistes, the article in Decanter on their impending doom, the usual chiming of sycophants and geeks online, and those many dot, dot, dots made me think:
1. Surely, I started my garage winery in the wrong place—the wrong country.
2. Surely, wine geeks must have better things about which to spend digital impulses.
~ In the market place you make it or you don’t. My garage wine production didn’t make it; maybe the guys in Bordeaux will. But I don’t understand why this matter calls for all that spilled ink and vitriol.
Incidentally, I’ve tasted some of the garage wines from Bordeaux. To me, many of them do taste like they came from California or Australia. I suppose they will not die off after all…
April, 2007. All Rights Reserved.