Page Tasting a Year of My Life

It occurred to me one evening, while trying to come up with an explanation for the complicated feelings I have about releasing new wines:  How many people get the opportunity to actually taste and share a year of their life?

Wine can be like a diary or growth rings on a tree – it tells the story (good and bad) of what happened in a defined window of time.  Perhaps that is why I find drinking my own wines to be such an intense, self-reflective experience, akin to critically looking at yourself in a mirror.

Would this wine be any different if I tried harder or, conversely, was more hands-off?  It’s obvious that vintage conditions and all things terroir are the ultimate variables in shaping a wine, but would any of my viticultural or winemaking decisions have been different if I was getting more sleep or eating better or invited more cooks into the kitchen?

Being intimately involved in all steps of the process, from the first pruning cuts to the final seal of wax atop the cork, the wine becomes a time capsule of that particular year of my life, something unique to our small winery.  Like it or not, you are getting a revealing view of yours truly every time you crack open a bottle of Five Rows wine.

I feel very lucky to have been able to share so many of my years.  Each evokes an immediate and distinct set of feelings – despite the obvious similarities in some wines from vintage to vintage.  It is why I often first associate a wine with the life events of that year, more so than the vintage conditions or how I feel the wine turned out.  A recent tasting of our 2007 Pinot Noir, the first ever Five Rows Pinot, showed unmistakable hints of “unbridled optimism” and “naiveté” that only a newly married, 30-year-old winemaker who just started his own winery could have created.

There is far more comfort in perceiving my new wines in this manner, as opposed to worrying about how they will be judged upon release.  As a winemaker, there is always a yearning for people to like what you make, but our job is to capture that snapshot in time, regardless of external circumstances.

The wine is the living story of that vintage and I am one of the characters central to it’s plot.  That story can evolve and change over time (as we all do), but the original setting and characters involved in its production remain the same.

In the end, I am both the biggest critic of my own wines and the one who gets the most nostalgia from drinking them.

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