Winemakers Really Do have Something to Say
I have a confession. I’m not too often convinced that winemakers have very much of interest to say.
This comes from a guy who has worked with a LOT of winemakers, at least in the capacity as their publicist (I’ve never dragged a hose through a winery that I didn’t first trip on in my life. And my singe experience hand punching down Noir in small bins convinced me this was the kind of word I am simply not cut out for.
But to get back to backhanded slap at winemakers, what I really mean to say is that, in my mind, unless you can get a winemaker away from his barrels and tanks that seem always to be calling him, and unless you have a rapport with the winemaker to the point that they trust you, the most you are likely to get out of these folks is something along the lines of things I’ve written on back labels—nothing of too much interest.
This is what makes Steve Heimoff’s most recent book, "New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff", so impressive. His subjects have quite a bit of interest to say.
Steve is the West Coast Editor of Wine Enthusiast Magazine. So, his familiarity with his subjects and their subject matter is not in dispute. His previous book, "A Wine Journey Along the Russian River" and his independent voice that can be read in his regular wine column as well as in his wine review, both demonstrate his vital and intimate connection to the wine industry. This is quality that doesn’t always come through in many wine writers, if only because it doesn’t exist. But I’m convinced that this new book is as wonderful as it is precisely because Steve was able to convince his subjects that he cared about the things they were talking about just as much as they did. No small feat, this.
"New Classic Winemakers of California boils down to a series of in depth interviews with a couple dozen of California’s most dynamic winemakers. This is candid stuff. It can also be quite intricate in its details with discussions of clones, fermentation, the philosophy driving "cult" wines and "High Octane" wines, to discussions of what terroir is intellectually and what it is practically. Steve demonstrates a real feel for the interview process.
Among those who are interviewed in the book are John Alban, Mark Aubert, Heidi Peterson Barrett, Andy Beckstoffer, Merry Edwards, Genevieve Janssens, Greg La Follette, Dan Morgan Lee, Rick Longoria, Javier Tapia Meza, Tony Soter, Brian Talley, Michael Terrien, and
Margo van Staaveren.
These and the others, to a person, are the folks who in 40 and 50 years will be referred to by other winemakers and growers as "Mentors". The point is, Heimoff picked the right crew to get intimate with.
Again, I want to suggest that this is pretty dense read. It’s not a beginners book. However, it is the kind of book that makes the well seasoned enthusiast much more seasoned for their time spent with the book.