Blanc in the USA…
Bean Counters, White Wine and Rock ‘n Roll!
Years ago, my accountant told me that “ABC” didn’t stand for “Anything But Chardonnay,” but rather “Always Bet on Chardonnay!” Needless to say, he is no longer my accountant and we no longer grow Chardonnay.
Wine is a business of passion. Playing by the numbers might be safe, but “safe” is not always the right approach… at least when it comes to creating interesting wine.
This year at the SXSW music festival, “The Boss” gave an inspirational keynote speech geared toward young musicians, but its lessons can be applied to any craft, field or even life itself:
"Open your ears, open your hearts. Don’t take yourselves too seriously and take yourself as seriously as death itself. Don’t worry. Worry your ass off. Have iron clad confidence, but doubt! It keeps you awake and alert. Believe you are the baddest ass in town and you suck. It keeps you honest. Be able to keep two completely contradictory ideas alive and well in your heart and head at all times. If it does not drive you crazy it will make you strong."
This statement rang true to me. I always tell new employees that they must take their work seriously, but not themselves. But more than that, always question why something is considered the norm and be willing to contradict it to create something unique… but be prepared because sometimes, you will suck! Then again, you might rock the house!
If Chardonnay is the corporate rock band of wine, Pinot Blanc is the little indie band that could… it’s all in the numbers. The total 2011 Napa Valley harvest of Pinot Blanc was a whopping 56.3 tons. This number sounds like a lot until you compare it with the 21,015 tons of Chardonnay harvested from the same geographic region. Why? Quite simply, because of price, hype and the media.
A ton of Napa Valley Chardonnay commanded an average of $2,253 per ton last year. Pinot Blanc, on the other hand, sold for an average of $1,673. For the same effort, Chardonnay earned almost $600 more per ton. Any accountant looking at this report would say, plant Chardonnay!
But we don’t sell raw ingredients, we make wine; that is our performance! We aren’t held to the same metric as a grower who sells grapes or a corporation who needs a mass appeal wine to satisfy their stockholders. The grapes RSV grows cost the same regardless of variety. This liberates us to pursue passion instead of just bottom-line. It’s a DIY approach – we grow it and make it the way we like it and hope there will be an audience for it.
“We are living in a ‘post-authentic world,’ where ‘authenticity is a house of mirrors.’ … the hype, the methods… and the story are second to ‘what you bring when the lights go down.’” ~ Springsteen
How do you rank a performance? Do you assume that heavy metal is louder so it’s better? Do you believe the hype when someone tells you it’s great when your own ears know better? Major critics of wine have traditionally approached rankings with a varietal bias and tend to ignore subtlety and authenticity. Wines of power (Chardonnay) trump wines of finesse (Pinot Blanc). It would be like trying to rate Hardcore Metal against Americana – say Metallica against Wilco. Metallica plays louder and faster, so they win… but ultimately, which brings more pleasure? It all depends on how you roll. Personally, I’m a Wilco kind of guy – restraint with a quiet power that gets under your skin. You can play their latest album as dinner music or hunker down with headphones, taking in intelligent lyrics wrapped in sonic bliss.
Pinot Blanc is our Wilco, under-appreciated yet respected; self-confident yet vulnerable. A serious wine that retains its sense of humor… and, it doesn’t suck!
“When you walk on stage tonight… Treat it like it’s all we have, and then remember it’s only rock ’n’ roll.” ~ Springsteen
Thank you… Blanc on!