Winemakers Turned Wine Reviewers

apottOff the top of my head, I can’t think of any winemakers that moonlight as wine reviewers or critics. I may be forgetting someone, but even so, the list is surely very, very short if there is a list at all. I know a few critics/writers that have turned winemaker. But not the reverse.

That’s why I was intrigued upon being directed to a new website being called, “Winemakers Recommend”.

The concept is simple: videos of winemakers recommending wines they like, but don’t make.

One thing I’ve noticed about winemakers is that you will rarely see them dismiss or diss a wine when speaking to a group of people. It’s not their way to be critical of their peers’ efforts. That’s not to say that in private they don’t have strong opinions. I’ve heard them. But I think there is something inside a craftsman the predisposes them to not pick on fellow craftsmen.

Winemakers Recommend is the work of Marcus Krupp and Brett Lyman. Brett is a Napa Valley filmmaker and his talents show through in the wonderful production quality of the videos that make up the winemakers’ recommendations. Marcus is a local boy and finance professional/Startup Junkie.

Each video is about a minute long and the featured winemakers/reviewers take a pretty straightforward approach. They explain the context of the wine they are recommending, talk a bit about how it was produced and give us a sense of what they taste in the wine. It’s a very nice and easy format and it’s an enjoyable watch.

So far, Marcus and Brett have tracked down some pretty well-known, experienced and celebrated winemakerslogowinemakers to recommend wines including Aaron Pott (One of Napa’s most sought after winemakers), Charles Thomas (Quintessa), Chris Carpenter (Lakoya, Cardinale, La Jota), Harvest Duhig (Caymus), Kale Anderson (Pahlmeyer) and Kirk Venge (Venge Vineyards). I’m told that they are currently posting up to two new videos per week and in the near future will be debuting between five and ten new videos per week. One must sign up to access the videos, but this takes a good half-minute.

The existence of Winemakers Recommends begs the question, what do I care what wines a winemakers like? It’s undeniable that the winemaker has a unique perspective on wine, given their devotion to crafting it. They surely appreciate the drink in a different way than the consumer, who, though highly interested in wine, are there merely to imbibe it. And they also have a different perspective from the professional critic who is in the business of pure evaluation and, again, not producing the wine.

Everyone’s a critic, right? I’ve heard it said that artists (or was it writers?) don’t mind critics one bit, until they start to have their own work critiqued. There is lots of truth to that. But, this new project really isn’t about criticism of wine, though the winemakers sound a lot like wine critics. It really just about what winemakers are drinking.

I’ve watched all the videos that Winemakers Recommend currently have posted on the new site. What I’ve noticed is a gentleness to the winemaker’s description of the wines. I’ve noticed a calm enthusiasm. And of course, I’ve noticed an attention given to detailing what the wines represent in terms of winemaking technique and origin.

I like this new website…this new approach to wine recommendations. Perhaps you will to.

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10 Responses

  1. Wilfred Wong - August 22, 2013

    This could be quite interesting and instructive.

  2. NR Carlson - August 22, 2013

    This sounds good to me – wouldn’t you love to hear any craftsman who really understands what goes into a good work describe what they appreciate about other’s work? Imagine someone who builds awesome handmade sushi knives discussing cutlery, a fine woodworker talking about the joints chosen for a fine piece of furniture, or an accomplished musician giving an appreciation of one of their favorite albums? I think that current wine writers sometimes suffer from an incomplete understanding of craftsmanship in wine – they have a nodding understanding and often put forward vintage summaries or theories that apply to some examples, but lack the deep knowledge to ‘get’ any one place well. I’ll watch this for sure!

  3. Mark McKenna, Winemaker, Andis Wines - August 22, 2013

    Really enjoyable. Great suggestions and a fun format. Hopefully they will use winemakers from a wide variety of appellations and perspectives as they evolve. This is the kind of thing that winemakers truly do talk about all the time!

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    • Bob Henry - September 1, 2013

      My thoughts, precisely.

  5. Doug Wilder - August 22, 2013

    I am very interested to see where this goes. Having appreciated the excellence of Brett’s work for several years, I had a chance to sit down with Marcus a few weeks ago to get a clearer sense of what they are doing. Lots of good stuff coming from these guys who are in a class by themselves. Just another example of the advantage of being local to your subject.

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  8. Bob Henry - September 1, 2013

    Tom,

    Regarding . . .

    “Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any winemakers that moonlight as wine reviewers or critics. I may be forgetting someone, but even so, the list is surely very, very short if there is a list at all. I know a few critics/writers that have turned winemaker. But not the reverse.”

    . . . Paul Gregutt up in the Pacific Northwest is one such individual who falls into the latter camp.

    Link: http://www.paulgregutt.com/2013/04/why-making-wine-is-making-me-better.html

    I suspect winegrowers and winemakers believe the “day job” and its paycheck comes first . . . before taking on the time commitment of a “moonlighting job” for free.

    They may also believe privately that they lack the printed word “wordsmithing” talents.

    ~~ Bob

    (Aside: When I meet distinguished winemakers or chefs, I ask them: “When you aren’t drinking your own wine/eating at your own dining establishment, what other wines/other restaurants do you patronize?” The endorsement replies become the basis for great insights into the individuals — and great discoveries.)

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