If You Smell Smoke, It Must Be a Campfire
I hate to camp. Just envisioning a camping expedition unfurls a torrent of visceral revulsion deep within my gut. I cannot fathom why people want to sleep in a canvas lean-to - or in a bag, for that matter. When I was a resident, I had a pal, who currently resides in Oregon with her equally-outdoor minded hubby, who wistfully waxed poetic about the wonders of sleeping in the cold and dirt beneath the stars. When I delicately inquired about restroom facilities, she blithely replied that she used a camping "vessel"- a box of some sort that stores ones solid waste until it can be properly disposed. Really? You sh*t in a box and carry it around? For a week? Wow that sounds like a really terrific vacation. It sure beats wiping your ass with a rough, crumbling oak leaf, like that fat, disconsolate bear in the Charmin commercials. And so, after the first, hesitant sniff of our Anderson Valley pinot noir, my heart sank. Chris, our enologist, hedged that it smelled like Chipotle. To me it just smelled like the rotten scent of dying campfire embers and memories of miserable summer camp sleepovers in the brush. Yes, wine is powerful stuff, evoking heart-racing moments of sheer ecstasy as carelessly as the horror of awakening with dirt encrusted in the corners of your mouth and between your teeth. And worse yet, that smoky flavor lingered on and on and on in the back of my palate. And it grew more aggressive with each press fraction. Brian, ever pragmatic, was less flummoxed. The wine had nice weight and balance and pretty good mouth feel, after all. But I just couldn't see past the forest or the trees or that lousy campsite in Borrego Springs where I endured my inaugural, 5th grade "outdoor adventure." Desperate, I tried to remain calm and breathe, like an enlightened Zen Master. True, there was nothing to do, and sometimes farming is a bitch. Struggling, I finally yelled at Brian, "I hate camping! Don't you remember I refused to go on that 10th grade trip to Zion???" (Oh my God, I am having a tantrum!). Back in 1988, Brian and the 68 other 10th graders in our class camped within the spectacular vistas and wild beauty of Zion National Park while I stayed home, by choice, a decision I defend even today, as our winemaking pickle remains unresolved.
Please understand, ever constant and dedicated Brigade, I would never sell you a wine that I detest drinking myself. But here we are together, at that most vexing of all life junctions- the one where we sit and patiently wait. Our Anderson Valley pinot needs to undergo malo (a topic for another post) and barrel age somewhat before we pronounce that our smoky campfire juice is dead. I hope the overbearing scent of smoke remits and fades into the background, in balance with some luscious red fruit, earth, and vibrant acid. If aging fails to soften the smoke from noxious blight to background noise, we can try some high tech tricks or pursue different fruit altogether. We'll keep you abreast of our journey as we tackle smoke taint together.