No nap, today, fought against pull and push to do so. Thanksgiving over, wife out shopping at one of those shopping special eve whatever’s. Me, home. Wine. Just finished glass of Claret. The night passed with such cruel progression. Indifference. Babies asleep upstairs. What movie do I watch, my dilemma. My life’s trouble. Think of how fortunate I am with my family and to have such family, to be sitting where I am, here on this we seek to shed, new one one the way… Day of giving thanks, I need to show more giving of thanks, being thankful.

Tonight, I do intend exploring more wine. No aim to wake at 4am or 4:10 like this day. No. I may actually just sleep in. I will. What do I mean, “may”? May have to punch out. Take the night as it approaches me, describe and translate it, or in such order reversed… then wake tomorrow with more thought. More story. More ME. Tired now, forgetting I’ve been up since 4-something. Think 4:10. Has it been that long? Yes. It has. Me, that writer. Now. Time to Self and I sip wine and be here, writing. A writer.

Does the writer want apple pie or Chardonnay? Both sound like they sound, their own precise appeal and connection. I’m not torn between both but urge to be curved by both, somehow. 9:08. Feel like bed but I won’t. I can’t. But more, I refuse. Why can’t I be a human, just have dessert or drink wine. Is it that complicated? Are my thoughts the hinderance, the block and or impediment? I think it may be just that. Not in any kind of a writing swoop, and I can’t figure anything of it out. How does pine figure. What type a figure be me, I, this writer.

I feel like I’m not doing a thing, while doing too much. A mess. Should have taken a nap.

In a mood right now but you know

what….

I know people don’t want to hear or read about that.  Snap out of it…. concentrate on what strengths and fires already drive my character.

Stabilized…. situated.  Cemented in my new sensibilities.

No… No.

I’m changing this…..  Creativity solves EVERYTHING.

MOCK SOMM:  2 Wines from Jesse Katz 

Aperture Cellars, Alexander Valley, Red Wine, 2011

IMG_9274A wildly vocal blend, Bordeaux varietals, Cab/Malbec, and one that commands the sipper to be lost, twirled and whirled in the body of the wine and its speech; darkness of berries and vibrant and confident presence, impact and influence on senses.  And, you taste more than structure, you’re greeted by a communicative being from the bottle; the words and story of the vintage and winemaker, Alexander Valley’s relentless promulgation of Bordeaux varietals.  There’s no halt to this wine’s momentum and palate placement.  Like his father’s photos, you’re caught, not anytime soon release but held in one place to appreciate and be lost in the visual, the scene created and captured, measured and treasured.  Of course I’m partial loving Cabernet and Bordeaux blends, and being one of those fervent followers of Katz, and his father’s work, but I’m instructed to appreciate Cabernet and Cab-honed blends differently with this bottle and most notably since it’s from ’11, the vintage that so IMG_9275many of these wine “experts” and “critics” want to dismiss so knee-jerkingly.  This wine is a taste of place, the alchemical invitation to experience stylistic translation of Cabernet meeting Malbec in bottle, in the perfect accompaniment, actuating its own autonomous atmosphere.  This wine reminds me of my relationship with wine, frankly, what I’m after and what I’ve been after in wine; Literary qualities, a story, the sipped-written; Wines that have their own character development and past, future, that are part of my present.  And I found another, finally, from an old friend, now infused to my wined picture and life more clearly– another sip, and I hear its voice.  Again, again…

MM94

Devil Proof Vineyards, Alexander Valley, Malbec, 2012

IMG_9041A Malbec, on its own, defiant in its delicious dichotomy of a disposition.  Loud and assertive but still very much elegant and poetic, not at all overreaching or stretching into a stance it shouldn’t.  A harmony of red coupled with its principles as a Bordeaux.  And you’re thinking to yourself, “And this is 100% Malbec?” And yes, there’s no support from another varietal, and no odd adjustments or anything strange in the writing of its story.  And like other wines from Katz, we see that understanding, and that winemaker influence and innovation sans trumping the identity of the varietal itself.  So then… we sip again, and experience what wine should be, or wine of this elevation; Art.  A story, a new story and new IMG_9044adventure for Jesse, when I asked him how he knew it was time to begin his new mission and venture he simply responded with “It was the right time.”  and it was the right time in my oeno-apologue to meet this bottle, having me feel immune and impervious to all ill elements, and how could I be harmed with such didactic wine in my glass, and the woman smiling back at me, holding her cigar herself aware that nothing and intrude on her proverbial quietude?  Cinnamon singing from rich raspberry and antagonizing cherry and other wild berry suggestion, lively spice song and tannic accents supply memorable structure, and more story, more memory, and what critics say about Mr. Katz’s passion project matters but doesn’t.  There’s mastery, visible, tasted, cellared or poured, it’s there at your table and you live, feel, and see it.  All.  And you’re proof that nothing negative can puncture you’re moment.  So you smile with her.

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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.

(10/23/15)

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.

(10/16/15)

10/13/15

Solano, and my mood has seen the rollercoaster this morning, and I’m sure but not sure what it’s from, so I log more in my mood log, this collection of writings or whatever it is– I can’t surrender my visions of writing, blogging, running and growing my own business, which is what I feel like doing, to be frank.  But later I meet Glenn at the crush pad and I know my disposition and cognitive translation of the moments will change.  Just focusing on wine and making my own, selling my own bottles, going on trips to Florida or Vegas, or Seattle or North Carolina, and telling my story of an adjunct who just became fed up with the system, not the literature and not the students, not the reading or the authors, the stories… but the system itself.  So to further stretch this funk away, I think of the authors I most love, Plath and Kerouac, Hunter S., Faulkner, Poe… and how they get to me and why, I want the same for the bottles I produce, the wine I pour and how I talk about it the same way Plath tells her story and “confesses”, as so many like to label her (“confessional poet”), I’ll do so my motivation for making wine, starting my own label. 

A maintenance guy keeps walking back and forth behind me, out of this adjunct hole then back in and to some back room.  Should have stopped at the Starbucks nearby, worked there.  But I’m here and I embrace the moment I find myself in and keep writing, trying more to rid myself of this goddamn mood– think poetry, wine, little Kerouac, my family, everything I love and that forces the moody writer to smile.  That’s what will get my to the winery and my office, to the Road, sooner.  This morning spent near $10 on a breakfast sandwich and mocha– shouldn’t have but I needed to do something to make me more elevated, with a luminary mood and different disposition, do something nice for ME.  And why not, I never do.  Which is partially to my compliment as well as character corrosion.

My friend Paula yesterday, telling me of her nursing studies, how now it’s becoming more visual and tangible, more real, more than just a bloody classroom and textbook.  And that’s just what I need from wine, its world.  So…..  What’s my next move?  Start the website.. order your cards.. put more into vvv.–  Messing around with technology right now when I should only be writing, writing what’s around me, now 4 other adjuncts; one math, one English, on “medical terminology” (whatever that is)… and one more math at the table next to me.  The math man sits at one of the computers, in the chair but doesn’t look at the computer, just stares off and swivels around every so and again, sometimes looking at me which I find annoying and uncomfortable and with my fragile mood don’t see as anything positive.  Want to leave, want to get back on the Road and just head back to Sonoma.. meet Glenn at the pad and talk about nothing but wine, winemaking, how wine is pictured in his mind.  Again I’m distracted, that has to be from my state in this room; not wanting to be in here or at this school and I never will again, devoting everything to wine and writing about it and my fiction; my classes at SRJC.  It’s too late in my life for mistakes like this, taking classes at Solano or Mendo–  The math man leaves, then the woman– and I’m more centered a bit, as there’s less crowd in here, less of that adjunct film and atmosphere, that feeling of attempted passion but materialized inevitable bitterness.–  Nearly got pulled away from this page again but no.. now another adjunct enters, I think she teaches, not sure, but she leaves as soon as she opens the door.  I think she may be a student with some part-time admin role here..

And the jazz plays on for me, “Good Old Soul” by Tina Brooks, that rhythm that tells me to snap out of it, that this is my day and I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to, that’s not part of the story I’m writing.. and what I’m writing is to art and freedom, wine and its trails and traversings around me day to day– the wine I sipped last night, that 2013 Rouge blend, the blaring coherence of it and the delicate but rich and assertive steps it takes on your senses.  One of the wines that reminds me of where I need to be.  And with that, I smelled the fermentation again today on my drive, it telling me to calm down, enjoy the drive and the Road and the coffee–  enjoy the days you have and all the characters and words that round themselves in your wiling envisage.  Vines, soil, barrels, the glass, the glass full– the notes I take and many times they’re just notes, arranged to formal prose later.  Now the song takes a calm turn into a piano solo, and I just want to leave, drive more, go back to my vineyard walk at Scribe, sit and write in my Composition Book, poetry and prose and a blend there in and of.

Now just two adjuncts.  Me, the other English.  She’s in the conference room, earphones in, grading papers.  I’m refusing to grade papers this morning.  I deserve a surge of moments to myself, no interruptions or distractions.  Only dreams in this early stage of day, of my wines, my travels, returning to the life of a student like Paula–  Today I’ll ask Glenn to teach me something about making wine; when something either goes wrong, or the wine is lacking something but you can’t quite pin what.  I also want to know what his approach is to “selling” the wine.

I’m picturing myself right now, in my tasting room, opening bottles, preparing for the first appointment; 4 people from GA, first time out here and certainly the first to my little Room off the Burg’s Square.

The math man comes back, sits at a different computer, begins his latest swivel pattern, reminding me of planes at an airshow.

And I feel my mood falling again– what can I do to stop it.  What can I do to shift the momentum more in my favor and more in my moreness.  And I know.. I know.  Rather than these momentary and jerked knee writings, finish something; a book.  OF ANYTHING.  That’s always slowed me– and I’m 36.  Do it al-fucking-ready.  About me about wine about writing, about teaching and becoming so disenchanted that you can’t help but curse “the profession” as they say over and over.  And think about all the people you know with their own businesses.  Literally CRAZY people with their own offices, that travel quite often and make a significant annual sum.  Are they more skilled at what they do that you with words?  With your paragraphs and poems?  Your lectures and thoughts that you have the bravery to push onto a page, share fearlessly with the world?

11 more minutes of freely writing, then I have to plan for class, go over the Plath chapters and talk to them more about this blasted CME, which encompasses “Composition Mastery Exam”.  And this is for a developmental section.  Have you ever heard of something so insane, so asinine?  MASTERY?  What a joke.  Anyway, I do have to prep a bit, the maybe get some more coffee from the caf’, or at least some water.  How about water to calm me down.  I’ve had enough caffeine.  How I can’t wait to get out of here, for the semester to end, to never have to come back to this bloody dingy campus again.

And the math man was just staring at me.  I hate it here more than I can articulate.

`

I looked back up at him.  “Hi”

“Hi,” he said.

“Can I help you?”

“I’m not looking at you.  There’s an interesting picture behind you.”

“Whatever,” I thought to myself.  Still rude.  Still uncomfortable.

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.

Now.

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.

Latest St. Francis Visit, 9/29/15

IMG_8885So I finally had the opening in my schedule to visit St. Francis, the winery I’d argue that started everything.  And I mean EVERYTHING.  My passion for and relationship with wine, my family’s involvement with wine, and everything wine in my life.  I walked through those enigmatic doors through and under the bell tower, and to the bar, where my old friend Ronnie was pouring for two or three sizable groups and managing everything with a fluency and assiduous momentum that anyone in hospitality would envy.  My flight took off with the Sauvignon Blanc, a 2014 which showed all the versatile and vivacious qualities I look for in an SB, a bottle with not just a peculiar persistence to its form and fold, but as well food-pairing capabilities and a stern collusion of tropical qualities and texture.  Then the Estate Cuvée Blanc, a white Rhône blend which I’ve always enjoyed an not just from taking to white Rhônes perhaps more than others in Sonoma or Napa do– it’s just a finely revolving and musical white wine, with that acidic subtext and slight oak influence that grabs the sipper and instructs on a different way to converse with white wines.  Then the Chard which I always love, then a storm of reds Ronnie insisted I taste.  I tried to stop him but he wasn’t hearing it–  the IMG_8889RRV Pinot, then the ever-famous Behler Merlot, the Lagomarsino Cab, Rockpile Red– everything telling me I need to fall deeper in love with wine and its story and stay close to St. Francis as  a winery and why wouldn’t I as it’s always teaching me something new about wine and certain blends and varietals, and something even more rewarding about me as a wine-riled writer and how to see wine in my life.

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Ronnie…

St. Francis started out as a dream of founder Joe Martin and his wife Emma.  I’ve always found their story and path compelling and telling to me, one always scribbling alongside what I sip and intersecting me with magnetic and encouraging people like Ronnie, and all through this industry– only the positive and the love and family-sewn story that brings people over that small bridge from the parking lot and through the doors under the so-known tower.

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Once the tasting was over I walked around a bit, out on the patio and to the lawn, and around the parking lot a couple times, just thinking and remembering all the family moments precipitated here, and where I am now with my wined life, and how it all started in that tasting room, on both sides of the bar.  When I used to pour with Ronnie and now just as an obsessed patron; one with a near-cult paradiddle to his ideations and speech whenever St. Francis lands in the conversation.

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While finishing my entry here and remembering my latest elbow-on-bar scene I sip the Merlot, the ’12, one you’d find at several stores in this area and elsewhere.  Dad used to tell me whenever he was on a trip and he wanted a bottle of wine he’d go to a local wine shop, always look for a “Frannie red”, he’d say.  And it’s obvious why.  Nothing nears this phylum and forward of grape interpretations, red or white.  So I take another sip, find my Self in and on a new flight.

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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.

(10/2/15)

MOCK SOMM: Sanglier Cellars, Sonoma County, “Touché”, Grenache, 2012

IMG_7923It had been a while since I last tasted the Grenache from one of my favorite little producers in the county but I thought it warranted, last night just wanting to have something a little different.  It wasn’t too hot outside as it had been and the commonplace SB or Chard didn’t hit me in thought and meditative angles.  “I need something red and celestial, gentle but assertive in certain corners of the palate,” I internally intoned.  So I pulled the last Sanglier Grenache from my cellar.  And immediately I was riled by the spiral of earthy red fruit, meaning mostly raspberries and pleasant medium-red jam-reminiscent tremolos that talk to the palate and encourage those second-looks which aren’t bizarrely over-analytical, or even analytical at all.  That’s not why I opened it, I didn’t want to be a wine critic and I didn’t want to be critical, I just wanted a charming musical soar of a red and I was sure I’d find it here in Sanglier’s translation of Grenache.  And I did, oh… I did.  Small run on this bottle so I’d get some soon, if I were you.  Just don’t buy too much.. this writer needs some more.  [JOKE?]  And with the food I’m used to ordering or enjoying here in the writerhut, like Mexican or light red pasta, or even a burger from this place my wife and I love down the street, it’s perfect, versatile and vivacious from sip one to last.  The blend on it’s 75% Grenache and 25 Syrah, so it’s linear in its note sequence of the fruit complexion and tempered oak talk, but not in any way simplistic or plebeian.  This is a bottle that any Rhône or red adorer should have on their home shelf.  Perfect beat and bravado but as I affirmed nothing excessive in volume, or ‘voltage’ as I sometimes say.  The Touché will have saying to yourself, “Touché”, a bit seductively startled that a Grenache could have such depth and amorous modes.