"What was your epiphany wine?" It's become a cliché (or at least I think so), a softball question destined for the back page of Wine Spectator, directed toward the latest race-car driver/retired athlete to buy a winery and slap his name on a label.
Having said that, I have to admit: We have an epiphany wine. Or at least we have a specific wine experience, which, in retrospect, was the sip that started this whole winemaking adventure. Settle in for the story:
Fittingly for the birth of a tangible dream, it all started with a midwife. This midwife/foodie/Disneyphile friend informed Jody and me that if we were really serious about food and wine, we had, simply had to dine at Napa Rose Restaurant in Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. After the necessary Googling, it was apparent this was actually true.
(I'll talk about Napa Rose in another blog post sometime. It's just a cool place, and since our first visit, it's been the scene of many further adventures in wine and making new friends.)
The Napa Rose wine list is California-focused; hugely extensive; and can be highly intimidating for all but seasoned wine folks (which we weren't). When you're an amateur faced with a list like this, you're ahead of the game if you know your price range and what you feel like drinking, which we did (under $100 and Pinot Noir). We could have asked for advice from the very competent wait staff (and I recommend doing this if you go, and don't know what you want). Instead, we went with what just felt like flat-out intuition that particular night.
Sometimes you get it right.
The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship
2005 Tantara Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir. I want to say it cost $72? $80, maybe? It was a splurge for us. The server looked surprised. Like, "These kids actually know their s---!" (Or maybe that was just for our benefit. It is Disneyland, after all.) He expressed his approval, brought the bottle and poured ... and Jody and I made an instantaneous shift from a life of, "Wow, this is pretty tasty wine," to a new life of, "Wow, we need to find out how this wine happened." Or, in the words of Tina Fey (as Liz Lemon, "30 Rock"), "We need to go to there."
So we did. And once we got to there, we found something unlike anything we've experienced anywhere else, before or since. I'll explain more in posts to come, but what we discovered at Tantara Winery, nestled in the Bien Nacido Vineyards in Santa Maria, CA, was a place where we immediately felt a sense of groundedness. For some reason, we belonged. The first time was as though we were coming back for the thousandth time.
We quickly moved from first-time visitors to adopted family members. After a few years, it's become our home away from home. After a few visits, Jody (who has a degree in horticulture, by the way) got the itch to get his hands dirty, and headed up to do some harvest work. (I, too, got to work harvest, and to my surprise, fell in love with this specific kind of dirty work.) All this led to the realization that somehow, we had to make some wine. We just had to.
So here we are. It's about to be August; veraison is happening; and it won't be long before we have some seriously pedigreed, premium fruit all picked and ready for us to drive 200 miles north and chauffeur it home before dawn. Then, we need to have everything in place -- at our house -- to turn it into wine. Good wine.
Are we completely crazy? (This is entirely possible.) What's going to happen? We don't know. I guess that's half the fun, and most of the challenge. We'll keep you updated as things develop, and continue to fill in the backstory along the way. Thanks for reading - let us know what you think!