“Was Napoleon right for Josephine?
“Is nausea right for Dramamine?
“Were the 80’s right for the drum machine?
“Who can say? Who can say?”
– Uncle Fester, Adams Family, the Musical
Several years ago my partners and I introduced a brand called Chessman. The idea behind the name was that just as one must carefully arrange the pieces on a chess board to maximize the potential of one’s board posture, so must a winery carefully match the correct grape, clone, trellising system, etc. to the vineyard and climatic conditions in order to maximize quality. If we are doing our jobs as winemakers we are hopefully creating the most propitious conditions for great wine to emerge. In the end, it is up to every consumer to answer Uncle Fester’s eternal question, at least as it relates to wine.
A SHORT STORY
Not long ago we met with some of our friends to discuss a Pinot noir program that we have been developing together. Our friends owned two vineyards, one in sunny Alexander valley, and one quite a bit further north, in Mendocino. The Pinot noir project that we have been working on together is grown in this second vineyard, up in Mendocino. It is a very marginal climate up there, and their north-facing vineyard was only able to fully ripen the Pinot noir in maybe eight years out of ten. When the vines did fully ripen, however, the resulting wine could be magical. Down in Alexander Valley, where it is far warmer, our friends grow Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and even a little bit of Cabernet.
And so we were dismayed to learn that our friends had sold their Mendocino Pinot noir vineyard late last year. Given the quality of fruit we were accustomed to receiving off of the vineyard, we asked them if they wouldn’t mind putting us in touch with the new owners. Our friends told us that they would be happy to reach out for the new owners on our behalf, but that we shouldn’t hold our breath because the new owners were grafting all that Pinot noir over to Cabernet and other Bordeaux varietals.
Now Cabernet hails originally from the sunny southwest of http://www.nexuswines.com/blog/the-story-of-cabernet-or-of-kings-and-knaves/ France, whereas Pinot noir first came into its own in the marginal climate of Burgundy. Pinot noir from warm climates can seem clumsy, lacking the ethereal qualities that distinguish this noble grape from less exalted cultivars like Grenache or Zinfandel. Cabernet from a marginal area can seem green and austere, lacking in the richness and depth that have earned for the House of Cabernet the sobriquet “the king of wines”.
We developed two key takeaways from this experience: (a) we will be seeking out a new partner for our Pinot noir project; (b) our customers should not be looking for a cool climate, Mendocino Cabernet from Nexus anytime soon!
In the meantime, we continue to pursue the vision which we hinted at with the Chessman platform several years ago: we seek to match the right vineyard with the right farmers and the right grapes. Then we pair that fruit up with the right artisan winemaker, the one with a passion for that particular region, or grape, or project.
Ultimately you will let us know if our vineyards are right for our grapes, when you decide whether our wines are right for you. We hope that answer will be yes!
But don’t look for our wine in the big retail chains. Instead, ask for Nexus Wines in your neighborhood liquor store or restaurant, because it is these independent small business people who are the lifeblood of our company.