The Face of Sunday Grief & the Safety of Wine

If you looked closely at the faces of the Arizona Cardinal players when time ran out on them yesterday I think you would have noticed a common expression that only could be interpreted one way: Grief.

It's the same expression anyone wears as disappointment and sadness begin to co-mingle in the mind. It's not pleasant.

One thing to note is that this Grief is not something you'll ever see someone wear on their sleeve no matter how much disappointment and sadness they experience with a wine they had such great hopes for but turns out to be sour and thin. Disappointment might ensue. A touch of sadness might creep in. But grief is not what will be spawned by a bad wine experience.

I've seen winemakers and winery owners react very negatively to a bad score for their wine from prominent wine critics. I've even seen one go into true funk that took a week to overcome. But it was never "grief".

The only time I've seen anyone experience grief where wine is concerned is when one winemaker I worked with was forced to discard an entire batch of wine that had become accidentally tainted.
There was no way to fix it. It was a wine that represented their greatest hopes. It was to be bottled all on its own and not blended. It was to be a new wine from a recently mature hillside vineyard that showed remarkable promise. It had been babied. It had been crafted with the utmost care. The winemaker had committed himself to it and saw a remarkable future unfolding in the brew. But it became tainted…and due to no fault of his own. This winemaker looked like an Arizona Cardinal. The winemaker looked like he lost his favorite child; he looked like man kicked around by broken hopes; the winemaker's heart was broken. That was grief.

But this was the only time I've ever seen true grief experienced due to fermented juice.

The message and lesson of this, of course, is that if you stick with wine as the primary or only object of your pursuits or desires, if you never open yourself to possibilities, if you never throw a Hail Mary, if you never trust, if you never prepare to forgive, if you never step on the field, then you are unlikely to ever experience the dreaded envelope of grief. Lovely. Of course, you'll also likely end up a friendless alcoholic living off of welfare with tattered clothes and a good palate.

Give them a month or so. The Arizona Cardinal players will recover. The winemaker did.


4 Responses

  1. Eric - February 2, 2009

    I know this look all too well, Tom. I have it a lot as an Eagles fan!

  2. JohnLopresti - February 2, 2009

    I have witnessed pinot noir grief, from a winemaker whose cellarmaster forgot to shut a tank door during crush. Five tons of must, muck in the aisle. Shouts of general manager dabbling in the winemaker’s work sphere. Incredulity during the interview of the must routing operations crew.
    The cellarmaster survived. Another season dawned, the winemaker accessed a heritage vines plot for a special red. Having learned from the scathing corporate response to the hapless loss of prized pinot noir must the prior year, one night late the winemaker sneaked into the bottling work orders area, and penned his own instructions to send the perfectly dry and aged new premium varietal red wine to the fillers and corking apparatus.
    The general manager arrived, discovered this second incident in the winemaker’s record, now already become a heritage red in cases neatly stacked in the warehouse, another loss of a product designed for perhaps something the board had yet to decide.
    After crush and bottling that second year, the winemaker gave notice.
    Now, decades later he has fame on several continents for cabernets, with his own label, based in the neighboring county.
    Sometimes a loss inspires yet more drive.

  3. Tom Wark - February 2, 2009

    I suppose your last line in your comment can certainly be true. In fact, I suspect it’s likely true. One hopes that the transformation that occurs in the midst of the grief however, is a positive one and not one that provokes desperate measures. It’s about the strength of the individual that determines the outcome.

  4. Dylan - February 2, 2009

    “Success is always getting up one more time than you fall.” I loved that definition when I first heard it because it says it all. Any path to success is paved with failure after failure. It implies there is no easy road, however the only way to keep moving forward is to have the determination to get up and try again until it works.

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