Posts Tagged With: wine world

NaNoWriMo Thanks

…or at least MARKET it.  This is the caffeine talking, maybe I shouldn’t’ve ordered a 4-shotter.  But I did and here I am.  The winery tomorrow should also prove quite fruitful.. taking a picture of this setup, me at the counter, coffee and computer, thoughts and wishes, the liste.. everything, this time, now, 12:47 and how that could be a novel to itself.. deciding that I will have everything I want.. well, I do, I just have to sell it.  Funny this new obsession with selling, I never considered myself a salesperson, nor have I ever even slightly enjoyed the concept of selling or being a seller, but infused with the appropriate creative acts selling actually becomes not selling at all, but more a sharing of passion for something.

Looking left now out the back patio, to the fall leaves that haven’t yet met the ground, I dream of a vacation home somewhere.  Not adding that to liste but I’m just daydreaming…

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NaNoWriMo (excerpt/standalone article)


And why wine.. for the narrative, for the story, for the love and life of her.  Across varietals, wines should be described as character and story, story in character and characters in a multitude of stories.  Like the blend I sipped last night, one I made in 2012 with a buddy, and now I’m here three years later still learning and evermore appreciative of the Roman-like presence of wine in the world’s collective and individualized momentums.  Wine’s its own scholar, its own study, and I don’t want to be anything more than a student, ever-learning and ever-growing with the ebb of innovation, from the Earth to winemaking approaches and methodologies–  Wine provides the writer an escape and a tally of rewarding inner-storms.

Stopping in my typed mayhem, I remember the first day working behind a bar, pouring wine for guests coming from everywhere it seemed in the world just to be at that counter, at that moment, to taste those wines.  That’s always provoked me to get closer to wine’s epicenter and intrinsic palatable parcels.  Wine is always inviting the lover and curious sipper to get closer.  It doesn’t exclude, it doesn’t judge, and I don’t think it very much wants to BE judged.  Just enjoyed.  Yes, I know, wine judgings and competitions, scorings, publications, blogs like this one.. I get it.  But at its most principal of principles, wine wants communication; the occasion.  That vie, cet amour.

When I drive from my home in Santa Rosa and east on 12, I’m reminded, that it’s everywhere, this story, and I need to commit to the story.  The story, wine’s narrative and cascade of short imagist disclosures, has done its part, very much, in fact ten times over and over; Repeated again from pure civil urgency, an exhausting kindness.  So I need to answer and keep driving, to Sonoma, over to Napa, stop in Calistoga in some tasting room I’ve never been in and taste, and keep tasting, write what I feel and capture the moment and know intimately this ‘why’…  Why I’m here, why wine wants me here, and why I want wine to want me here writing about her.

My notes from last night, on my own winemaking effort, reading them this morning after a rushed-sip sequence of coffee, teaches me to move slower with her, that she need to be listened to, not string-pulled, not steered, just let to speak.  My notes read like some cookie-cutter tasting room menu, “Wild Cherry, Chocolate, slight cinnamon, milky texture.” ‘What the hell’, I say to myself.  Wine deserves much more than that.  She needs MORE than ‘more than that’.  She needs time, measure, attention and always a more wanton writing than I last night gave.  She gave me a story, chapters and dialogue, images, and she knows I’m not the most wild plot enthusiast, so she lets me decide that.  She’s kind.  I need to be more a mirror, and reflect what’s on the other side, in that vineyard over there off Adobe Canyon Road, and over there off 29.  Everywhere and everything.  For her, me.

Wine, writing…  “Wine,” I call to her, “I’m still writing.”

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MOCK SOMM: Anthill Farms Winery, Mendocino County, Comptche Ridge Vineyard, Pinot Noir, 2012

IMG_9276That wooing style of Pinot I love, and chase, but rarely find.  But I have it now, oh do I have it now with the rose pedal flirtation and light red fruit with understated but still altogether relevant vanilla, encircling my senses with its little urging vignettes of flavor and voltage– olfactory momentum only augmented by what greets the tongue– syllabic syncopation and thorough exploration of the varietal’s ebb and origin.  Mendocino, more and more ardent in its stage presence and voice– even as the hour onward urges I write for this wine and not that it needs me to I just note so I don’t forget; this Pinot’s one I want to remember far after the bottle’s left vacant on the countertop, there just looking back at me, knowing it has me and its spell quite affective, it won I lost and I’m more than at peace with the peace it gave me, a piece of it mise en scèn, its ubiquitous aura and rush about my stages, imagined and actual, lost in the Pinot path again and I’m like an ant, looking for something, not food or any substance but reason, why it took my so long to find the farm, this shape of Pinot and these chapters that I sipped– the bottle looks back at me from the counter and I feel regret and victor syncopatedly.  I walk over to the bottle and just stare at the label, want to know more about so I do some research and now understand why I’m so driven and drawn to its design– they catalyzed humbly and understand and remain so.  Or not so, as this bottle can’t be ignored, passed, or spoken over, or for.  This is my rile reconfiguring my rationale, so pardon–  It’s autonomous and quite vaunting about its phenolic jargon.  Still talking to me, even after the last glass which I finished well over ten minutes ago.

This wine has me on its mission, to realize Pinot’s innermost character, the compounding of delicacy and assertiveness.  And as oxygen saunters into its makeup the floral notes and theses of vanilla and cinnamon, maybe saturated forest soil or something, present themselves and with artful rhythm.  And the Literary qualities?  Everywhere, in all stages of its development and stance, it doesn’t taper or fade or relent in its spell.  Narrative, development, contradiction and plot anomolies… and if I’m one of the ants on the farm I’m more than elated with such, my new story sipping this Pinot form.  I’m more than certain most I know haven’t tasted a Pinot of this expressive elevation.  Or maybe I’m wrong.  Either way this should be studies, not duplicated– well, it won’t be, it can’t.  Only by its creators.

Its own scenery, ambient consistency it how lassos your attention.  Like staring at the ocean, or walking in the Mendocino woods, there’s pace in this bottle.  Vineyard Zen couriered to the glass, and now to the writer– our narratives again soon hopefully meet.  And now I think more about what it said, what it commanded–  And I go back to my glass.  Another visit.



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1,000 words — barrel 7

Up at 4:53 but went back to sleep, now 6:06 and I refuse to let my head touch that pillow after bringing Jack to our bed.  Downstairs now in this dark and I’m set on making today one of writing and content and money– yes, ‘money’.  I need to fill these income gaps as I’ve said and produce more money for myself, more importantly my family.  Writer dilemma, here in the earliest of morning, or not the earliest the earliest would have been at 5.  Was so close, but I’m here now, reader.  Writing.  And the day, the day is right there, and I’m in control as I noted last night, as I thought last night driving home from Mendocino, before being accosted by that CHP officer (he telling me to slow down, which I did otherwise there was no way he could have come to my window to tell me the obvious, the the road crew was working and that it’s a bloody mess on the road, 101, and that ‘we’re all gonna get through this’).  “What?” I thought.  I pity him, his life, what he was out there doing, after our lovely interaction, his invisibly pushing people onward with his flashlight.  That’s his job, when I’m sure all he wanted to do is being a real police officer, not a glorified hall monitor, patrolling California Highways.  Neither there, nor here, or anything of importance.. I’m here on this couch and I hear Alice wake or at the least stir, probably toward the shower as she always does, leaving Jack in our bed but I can’t imagine him staying too still, me having just brought him to our bed and him asking last night “Where’s daddy…Where’s Dada?” Alice told me.  I don’t mind this sitting being interrupt at all really, as I’m just warming up as a writer, this is my meditation, my inner collection and warmup exercises I guess you could say.

Meeting Glenn at Punchdown at 9:30– have to charge phone, and camera, need a new notebook, or no I don’t I’ll just use the Fall ’15 one.  Week 10, dead.  Thank the Craft, onward now, onward into my wined story and growth, and that ‘end game’ as Kevin said.  Which is, I think, my own wine.  And I’ve held that vision for some time now, truly, so that has to be it.  Something has to be IT, right?  I’m 36 with a daughter headed straight for me.  Yes.. the model of the big ad/media/blogging/content company then the side project, the “passion project” (hate that, yes too cliché, but that’s just what it is).  My winery.  Starting with SB, Merlot, as you know, and then maybe jumping into Syrah which I love and perhaps even Pinot, or some Rhône blend, some Rhône-something.  Wine’s a path to just be walked and enjoyed, not over-thought.  I’m in control.  And I don’t know why, I have to again note, this is hitting me at 36, such realization.  Why did I have to wait till now?

6:09AM, Friday, but it’s hard to see Friday like normal people, esp people who don’t write or blog ‘cause we’re always working.  Content is everything to us; life and family, and me now with this “daddy blog” idea, or startup– no, just a blog now, maybe it’ll turn into another “startup” like the vvv idea, but I want to explore and share, and LEARN from and TEACH MYSELF, and maybe others though I’m hardly an authority, on parenting.  How Jack, and soon Ms. Emma (whom I still call Ms. Austen, even though the ‘Jane camp’ is long, long gone– when there were so many potential names for my daughter I called them camps; the Jane camp, Emily camp, Emma camp, Catherine Elizabeth camp…)…  Just parenting I find so interesting now, and this is a direct extension and demonstrative of who I am and how I think, as a professor, yes, just more so one from the Literary world and seeing everything differently, processing life as an Artist, one with an ever accumulating book and journal.

The white wine I opened last night, an unlabeled bottle of the Cuvée Blanc from Glenn’s label.  Nice fruit, simple but not too.. just the type of white you open at the end of a long day, which I very much did, in fact I even thought of how I’d reward myself with that bottle, a couple glasses, last night.  And I can remember precisely when: walking from my car to the building where they have me in another goddamn adjunct office, shared obviously, crossing the street to the building, in that crosswalk, a car waiting for my self-removal from street, to my right.  And there I was last night at the kitchen island eating the salmon Ms. Alice had waiting for me, that little pasta with cheese & broccoli (which we call Jackie pasta as he used to love it, not so much anymore, which is another interesting reflective province of parenting– keeping some sort of reasonable, non-frustrating pace with their preferences).  Little Kerouac’s not too bad, but who knows what Ms. Austen has planned.  And speaking of Jane.. and books…..  Think I’ll order some today– no, have to get through the ones I have here on my desk, my reading list which includes that new Kerouac book which I’ve barely touched (‘Sea/Brother’).  And as I pity that hallway supervisor last night on 101 South, I as well some adjuncts that are convinced it’ll get better, that they’ll be tenured when clearly the system has no plan of that for them.  And why should it be about Them having a plan for Us?  Why can’t WE have more control?  “You need to be more involved,” one person told me, but it’s unpaid involvement.  With a house, and another Madigan about to land, that’s unreasonable of anyone to as THIS Madigan.  I need pay, and I need more, and I’m in control with my projects and writing and blogging so don’t worry…  I’ll get it myself.


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1,000 words — barrel 4

Monday morning and I’m very much multitasking you could say, trying to “launch” website for mmc and email a client, and think in my head what I have to do for classes.  Luckily, only 9:30, so I have a bit of time, but I need to work faster than fast, efficient or crazy I don’t know what the right term would be.  But I’m working this morning, reader, just so you know…  Ugh, very much multitasking, drinking coffee and circling in my ideas.  How to make more money and how to diversify my business model as a writer and blogger and wine-selling.. or crEATive wine selling character– more charisma and the assurance that no one can do what I can, no one can work as hard as I do doing this, this wine life, all written and all recorded– I have 2 babies and a wife that depend on my pages, on me, and this morning I woke looking at the clock and saw 7:03, I believe.  I felt disgusted with myself, lazy and worthless, not at all like a professional writer.  So it stops and I change on a dime right now here in this home office and with this very cup of coffee.  Was tempted to go to Starbucks but I need take full mammoth advantage of this morning, and all it affords.

So I calm, or try, try to write more cleanly with more pristine sentence rhythm and self-coercion… put something on new blog, need more coffee– and what to do in class today, what to do when my head is nowhere near that campus and the abysmal pay they offer us adjuncts.  I feel so horribly for the other adjuncts, and some full-timers I hear complaining around the halls that have no other option than to be a bloody teacher.  I will say I’m quite gracious to whatever cosmic compositions me encircle for my options, for wine and its story and for mornings like this and this coffee, my family and my story as a Wild Wine Writer.

The day seems bright and beaming with composition, bullion in sentences and characters, character studies (which includes myself, my steps on and off campus).. just have to wait for the semester to be done, till Emma’s here, till all’s more settled.  Have to email new ideas to Glenn, see what he thinks.  So much going on this morning.. you should see me in here…  Things settling, I think.. talking to some product expert by way of internet chat.  Annoying that I have to interact with tech as much as I do but as a blogger I supposed I’m being an avalanche of unrealistic thinking I can dodge tech and the internet too much, right?  But maybe that’s part of my brand’s appeal, me as a writer, that I hate tech and the internet (maybe not hate), but I hold to my writing values and use what I dislike in my own convenient capacity, something like that.  I’m rambling, I know.. thinking of the SB I had last night and the reds I tasted in the Sanglier tasting room, especially that Boar’s Camp blend.  Have never considered myself that much of a Rhône nut, but this label has made me assuredly a curious and more exploratory figure about the varietal region, and the stylistic ebb of Rhônes.  Interesting, and I still see myself the studying student especially with the time I spend with Glenn be it in the TR or at the crush pad.  Allowing myself to be fully enveloped by wine, wine’s narrative fire and musical moldings–  The writer now sees more of his day, after class, coming home with Jackie and enjoying some simple snack, maybe going to the store before home and me watching him from the patio, laughing at his chasing of friends and how he hits the wiffle ball with one arm, always left.  Then he chases, repeats, “Watch, Daddy!” he yells from across the street.

Time for another cup of this medium Roast, more jazz and more time for me, my elucidated peace, synonymous with find Self and the Equilibrium I’ve been after since, well.. forever.. since my first hated job at the local grocery store in Belmont.  I have to forget about all past trial and falls and move more venomously, crEATively forward in my pages and story, relationship with wine.  And the aim to wake at 5, like Glenn or any other farmer or any Artist serious about their craft.  And if I’m to one day be a winemaker then I need to be up earlier.  Why is this such a struggle for me, really?  Examining it, I can only conclude laziness to some extent but as well going to bed too late.  A writer, or any penner word reading, exhibits more militancy with his sleep patterns, and doesn’t fret with a lack of sleep but rather embraces it as an advantageously altered consciousness codification, causing him to see differently and throw his rhythm to page with more crazed and musical innovation–

What I want to “teach” today?  Don’t know.. I want to make the sessions something I’d enjoy.. if I’m a student in my own class, I want to enjoy myself, enjoy the discussions and my own writing.. so how to begin.. Go completely offbook.  So, no Wolff.  Then what?  Blend you ideas, winemaker-slash-writer.. writing, poetry, odd words.. like ‘kalology’.. what beauty is in literature (and wine, outside of class).. something that elevates the soul, as Poe said.. get theoretical, get abstract, go outside the box, and barrel, and book– hmm.. now I start to bubble in cogitation crEATively and fly away to some other story in my character.. just on my own stage and learning.  This is all oneiric, I feel, or maybe more tangible than I acknowledge– need time to think about this one, piano riffs all about this room and me in this swiveling chair, realizing I’ve reached a thousand words but I have no want to halt, or stop like some dog ordered to.  Winemakers, in their caves or barrel rooms, don’t leave till they’re satisfied with their progress.  Wouldn’t say I’m mawkish with my work this morning, by any means, just not fulfilled in the way I wish.. so what do I wish for, right?  Isn’t that the next logical inquiry?  I don’t know.  I want to be walking a vineyard.  I want to be at the crush pad.  I want rain.  I want this semester to be over–

I want my daughter.

I want to sip wine in Paris, again–

I want the Road–

I want to know what my latest character study does, where she is and what book’s pages she turns.

There’s too much to my ever elongated wishlist.  And I feel it hopeless to steer or too much contain.  So…..  I stop the session, I walk away and back to my home coffee machine for another cup.


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1,000 words — barrel 1

Starting with yesterday now, Friday, as I had no time to type yesterday except for in the adjunct hole– immediately after class heading to car but when to wrong lot.  Parked in the spaces opposite side of Solano’s campus.. too much here to explain and far too boring to recount for me so I move.  Move on–  All day yesterday thinking of myself as a wine grape, and vine, and winemaker, budgeting time in my head as I couldn’t scribble while driving, and smelling ferm’ the whole way on 12, nearly.. nearing 3PM I had to decide what to eat, and I didn’t want to ingest any poison from the corporate fastfood dragons as I’ve shamefully done a couple times in weeks recent.. so I stopped at the Safeway on 4th, ordered a turkey&cheddar on soft roll– they didn’t have soft rolls, so then sourdough rolls.  No– “Do you have sliced sourdough?” She grumpily slugged to the other side of the counter, in back by a small fridge, she found some atop, held them, the bagged slices, up saying nothing.  “Great,” I said.  Got to my parked car in shade and devoured it– didn’t get a Coke as I thought of doing but rather a water, holding myself to the recent declaration and affirmation of getting back into running shape.  Finished sandwich, wondering what else the day’s story would tell me as a winemaker, grape or vine– time budget but not too planned, stay poetic and artful and whimsical, let no outside plans or forces fragment your fortitude.  Wanted so bad to call the 200 Mendo class, but no, I stayed on 101 North and again in Geyserville smelled the fermentation but this time with some exponent to it, it was speaking directly to my receptors, telling me to drive on deeper into the wine world and don’t stop, don’t change your vision or direction, to intensify my momentum and don’t secondguess yourself or you’ll never make wine, or write, like my sister said..the day now evermore speaks to me, yesterday the 15th, the Ides of October, it’s midpoint where I gather and inventory and see jazz in the bare vines where so many see desolation and the grapes’ absences, I see promise and new chapters, a finished novel, or memoir, a capture or literary leaps from the soil and the winemakers that translate.  And in class, once finally on campus I exploded with offerings and ideas from Plath’s Jar’d pages, her character Esther in all her emotions and struggles and emotional struggles, I realized that I onward trot in my reflective vineyard Literary lots– memoirs, short fiction novels poetry essay sketch or vignette, it’s all there for me to write.  And driving home, that cruel and challenging Mendocino dark, 101 South, I pretended I was Dad, flying over the North Atlantic after fueling the Passat and rewarding myself and my performance in class with a Dr. Pepper.  And the drive, not as bad as I remember, as it has been I should say the past few times with the nervousness and the closecalls and the lights blinding me and me steering in guess, hoping I stay on the bloody road.  And once in Cloverdale, I could relax (and after a traffic buildup from a flagger, result of a repaving construction project which I get but nonetheless a pain for the Beat adjunct who just wants to get home), sip the Road soda and enjoy my flight.  All yesterday, interesting with the grading in the adjunct hole, the run-in with that staring Math “professor”, the walk in the vineyard before I even really started the Solano drive, and all the meditation on my drives–  I know Plath felt this at so many points in her life, if she were going the right way, at the right speed, and when would the fruit come.  Winemakers are all Plathian in their professional movement, not so much secondguessing Selves but still wrapped in their calculations, and wonderings, wanderings through barrels and which chapters, or lots, best together blend.  But they stay tireless and keep with their aims and visions of the chapters, all the elements accosting them romantically and mythologically, the kalology of that palatable manuscript, vocality for a year and speaking for and to their reactions to conditions.  I want to be one of them and I will–  I already am, seeing each of my classes as a barrel, and this semester a blend, and which barrels do what to the pervasion of the story and the point being made by my typed efforts– all written and all meditated, thought over and under and diagonally with intensity I’ve never felt since now I see and feel the deadline, my daughter here in 59 days.

At the Hopper coffee spot, I sip from a 4 shot bomb and I need it, get these words on yesterday to the screen as it’s been stressing or at the very least perplexing me as to why I can’t detach from the scenes from yesterday glued to the walls of my cogitation.  Some weird writer syndrome I guess.  Tonight I’m planning on opening something but I’m not sure what.  Maybe I should go by bottle barn or– no, save money for writing projects.. but I need material!  NO, save money.  Wine writers can never have enough wine, one mentality, while the other, this current ME, says “there’s gottabe something in the cellar, something you haven’t tried before, something new, something for this YOU.  Save you money for Self-publishing, the business, the expansion.” Later today we have family pictures taken at St. Francis, one of their vineyards, as we did last year, and I know I’ll want to take pictures, or even write but won’t be able to like the drive yesterday but if it sticks as yesterday did, does, then it’s meant to be in prose.

This new character I’m thinking of…  How to carve, craft– compose.  She doesn’t drink wine.  In fact, she doesn’t drink anything, but rather paints, sells her work.  Similar to an old character I used to write, but different.  I need wine to think outside this box I’m now in, I’m thinking as freely as I should be I know even with these four shots of espresso but I’m trying, trying, she walks into her studio and looks at all her materials, all the blank canvases and knows she has to fill them, but how and with what.  That Artist question–  And her name her name what.


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Tonight I drink wine to drink it, yes, but to align myself with its motions and

momentum, this Sanglier ’13 Rouge Du Tusque.  I’m not allowing myself to descend to descriptors, orIMG_9061 go into one of my poetic meanderings, just know where I am and what I’m doing, after a day that quite tested the writer; having graded and regraded all those papers from the 1A sections, thinking I may not finish them.  But I did.  Then, lecturing for nearly 4 hours straight, one of my students leaving her cell phone in the class me taking it with me in my bag and later her calling me on my cell to let me know she left, I told her I know, I have it and it’s safe, her sounding a bit annoyed or unsure.  I’m not paying it a bit of attention, it resting in my bag over there in the study– quite the problem our dependency on tech, and much what I want to not think about sipping this red.  On the couch, after — oh, such a day.  These papers that follow me fucking everywhere and this book I’m trying to finish and me always saying I’ll wake at 5 but I never do.  I stop for a second, think.. about my friend Paula and her nursing studies and how she told me that it’s now becoming more immediate, more visual and much more than what’s in the classroom.  My envy of her pursuit and her studenthood, and newly told Personhood has me sure, that I’m a forever-student, learning, and I’m done with the patterns and now going after what I want which is in wine’s story and the making of; walking those vineyards, freedom in airs Sonoma.

I see everyone on the Road but me.

But that’s going to change.

Okay, now time for some wine and proverbial meditation.  Done with this day, welcoming tomorrow and all forces positive.

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Thrall Depth

IMG_9018Finally at the desk to write freely.  Met with winemaker friend Jesse earlier, and before so met with Gary, former K—- friend for some tasting, the Stonestreet set.  Not a “bad” wine there, not in any respect or ramble.  In fact, I just finished my second glass from the Chardonnay I bought today.. nice oak ebb with syllabic fruit form and arrangement, placement.  Just another brilliant Chardonnay in this recent white wine rile I’ve been on.  Thinking what else I have to do tonight.. more house-keeping keeps; officialize website, order business cards…  I now see that this content marketing shop will interfere with certain or all writing urgencies– but “Mike Madigan, Author” is an mmc client, so not too much can off the ledge leap.  OH– want a night’s capping.  But what?  More Chard, or one of the Lagunitas?

Smelled the fermentation again today, just on the “Walk” patio, this morning, so now I’m promise a future in wine, making wine for my own label like my friend Jesse and touring the country for pourings and explanations as to why I made the wine I did and whatIMG_9024 food I’d pair it with– actually, I want to have food in mind while making my wines, as my sister explained at Dad’s 70th, while introducing the Chardonnay and telling a story of how Mom would not just cook to and with it but sip it as well.  Everything I do now is WINE, and all stories are wine-sewn, as so many people talk about terroir I seek to be one truly living it, like Glenn, like Jesse, like my sister– in the vineyard and seeing what the vines want us as winemakers to say.. now, we may not always agree, but there can be a certain syllabic synergy, most luminously.

Tomorrow I’m in the Sanglier tasting room, learning from Chelsea and learning more about their model and wines and how the wines are spoken, what they orate in the TR context–

IMG_9026Just checked on my little Beat, qualmless in his sleep, dreaming of things I;m sur eI have no idea how to interpret, jaded as I am with my age and advance life lording.  Night’s cap, at left, a Lagunitas.. should go in other room to watch what I want, something for next week’s lectures.. secured classes for next semester, today; a 5 and a 1A.  Remembering when I first started teaching and how eager I was and how I’d go anywhere and teach anywhere, any class and at any place– so eager and they know that they feed on it and us, our optimism and open bags, notebooks and car doors; we’re on the fucking freeway more than at that class’ helm.

But that stops for me.


This semester.

And next.

And after next, if I get to next, I’ll be a winemaker, writing fulltime and only having priority and universal impetus in my own layered notes and whimsical musings, all wine-riled and ruled.

Such kalological code.

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from today’s sessions

…vineyard walk this morning on Arrowood’s property definitely helped.  I feel so calm, this morning driving over here to campus with downed window, smelling Sonoma morning air notes and the fermentation around me.  Poetry and a real narrative that only I can interpret.  Wine was calling me, it always it now, and I answer– the dactyls and iambs and versed steps in my jargon now, momentary and evergreen, spanning this day and the next, and to next vintage when my tangible and immediate wine, all mine, is in true barrel.

Done grading papers for bbl 3.. or in winemaker speak, doing my adds and checking levels.  Now I get to write freely and think more of and grow from that vineyard walk this morning.. I love the jazz in my ears, and dread when 12 rolls to me and I have to take them out–  The wine I’m to sip tomorrow night, a Cab from Santa Lucia.  My first ever.. and I have ideas more, have to log them in the little black book and not here, just know the writer’s thinking about wine and in a language of wine– a savory jargon than we understand in Sonoma, and Napa, and wherever there’s a block to walk, be it Viognier like this morning or some Pinot micro-block on Arista’s grounds.  Everything this morning is wine, and the adjunct around me would envy my disposition…

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MOCK SOMM: Interview with Arista Winery Winemaker, Matt Courtney

I started by asking him what his “oenological voice” was, rather than just plainly what his style was in IMG_8912his mind.  He smiled lightly, and said that would be a question better suited for someone like me, a writer.  He then added that he didn’t think that most winemakers approached making wine with a style in mind, it’s more a matter of making the best wine you can, the most expression of site.  The “style” that so many address is more an understanding from the consumer’s mentality.  He said he can speak on what his goals are, his approach, and that is about as close as he could get to answering me–  But more than anything, he noted, “I want to make wines that are delicious, that are profound, but that are balanced.” And if you taste the Arista lineup, the appellation blends or single vineyard translations, Chardonnay or Pinot, you’ll appreciate this methodology and practice, as it’s palatably executed.

Matt’s character is empowered by his synthesis with his favored varietals, not inoculating with any commercial strains of yeast or malic bacteria.  You can blow out the nuances of a given site if you overwhelm it with commercial yeasts, he stated with low-volume, easing and nearly poetic rhythm to his speech.  The emphasis is on the vineyard, and doing an unprecedented familiarity with the vineyard site so that when the fruit comes in, it’s only a matter of shepherding the wine, as he said, through vinification.

“You are stripping something away, even if you improve it,” he says about fining and filtration.  Maximum amount of material in the bottle, he stressed.  I told him I found his style of winemaking as more “truthful”.  He preferred the word “transparent”, that gives the sipper the most optimal picture of the microclimate and geographic specificity where the wine comes from.  You’re stripping less away, you’re adding less.  It’s clear Mr. Courtney values the site where the Pinot and Chardonnay come from, and how that site can be tasted and the picture needs to be maintained, shepherded as he said.  “We’re measuring three times before we cut.”

Chardonnay and Pinot to this winemaker walk a funny balance, in that they can be light on their feet, as he specified, but also be complex and layered.  It’s a magic trick, he said, trying to have either of those varietals be that delicious dichotomy, keeping them interesting and captivating.  “I want people to go back for that next glass.”

He likes Chardonnay that’s diligent and develops in the bottle.  And with the Chardonnays he’s produced for Arista, since his start in 2013, we see this bright presence of fruit but yet this interesting palate weight and unique complexity, layered and savoringly compounded with flavor.  He said that Chardonnay and Pinot can be all things to all people in ways that other varieties can’t.  And that ties into this assertion of the magic trick.  There’s a special relationship with this winemaker and these two potentially moody varietals.  And his Pinots demonstrate the same verisimilitude and ardor as the Chardonnay, just ten, twenty-fold.  His Pinots provide this tasty spacial awareness.

Our talk was briefly interrupted by one of his crew members coming in to ask him a question, something about malolactic fermentation, or something.  Can’t remember precisely but it reminded me I was taking him from his day, that these winemakers, especially of this stratum, are always moving, always measuring three or four times then deciding, deciding…  So I had to close, quickly.  Of course Matt being the convivial chap he is didn’t say anything of any dire or rushed tenor, but I intensified my momentum. 

“Really quick, thoughts on ’15…” An interesting year in his mind, partially because of the drought, but as well attributed to the early bud break and the challenging weather during fruit setting.  Diminished yields in some sites, and some vineyards hit much harder than others.  But, in his words, “very variable”.  This will affect the amount of fruit yielded.  He also cited the uneven ripening and the heat spikes have provided challenges in their own arena, making it “interesting” as he said.  But he assures the wines in tank and in barrel are tasting quite good.

I told him that I heard some people, some winemakers say the shatter out there is “winemaker shatter.” He smirked, and said, “I don’t even know what that means.” But Matt expressed optimism about the wines that were fermenting and vinifying, and he again returned to this subject of shatter, and said that in some of his vineyards it didn’t harm the pick and eventual fermenting wines that much.

We returned to the topic of Arista, and what the winery, or label has done for him as a winemaker, and then I had to ask him which of his wines, notably the 13’s, is his favorite.  “That’s like asking which of your kids is your favorite,” he said.

“Which of your kids is your favorite?” I said, laughing, then he laughed, but he then disclosed that he holds a beaming affinity for the estate wines, the Two Birds and Harper’s Rest Pinots.  If you’ve ever had these wines before you can see why–  bold and complex, the volume and layered magical beauty of each…

We closed our conversation with the new production facility on the Westside property and getting the vineyards to where they want them to be, to always push the envelope of quality, getting the vines in better health, year to year.  Again, only optimism and a soft, understated but still vibrantly visible confidence about this winemaker, and for anyone loving wine, it rubs off on you.  You’ll walk away from the chat, length no matter, feeling closer to wine, closer to Arista if you’re already a fan.

“It’ll be a huge help for us in the cellar,” he noted, when the facility is on the property.  Getting more precise with irrigation strategies… vine-water status…  “There’s no limit to how good we can get, that’s what keeps it fun.” Again, the yay-saying sentiment I expected from him toward the end of our talk.  So his “style”, or his voice, if I can attach a new “descriptor”– balanced, just like what he aims to bottle year to year.  And, profound, whether he intends it or no.  Balanced in his tone, his demeanor, and his explanations.  Profound in his presence.

Oh, then there’s the extraordinary, magical wines he brings to fruitful fruition.  There’s that, too.  So, I, the writer, goes back for that second glass.


Categories: mikemadigancrEATive | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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