Drinking craft wines from America's small wineries is one of life's greatest pleasures
What do you love in life? What do you enjoy the most? Have you ever sat and thought about what are the simple pleasures that keep your spirits lifted? To me one of life's greatest simple pleasures is to drink craft wine from some of the small wineries across America. This is not just about being a wine hipster with an awesome beard, this is about enjoying good wine made well. It is time we celebrated America's craft wineries.
The passionate stories behind America's small wineries
As I have travelled the country, met with, and even spoken to many folks over the phone, I found that these craft wineries had one underlying theme. All of them had a fascinating story to tell. Their stories were wildly different, but at the very heart of everything was their passion for making wine. You could say that this passion for winemaking was the very heart that pumped through everything they have done and kept the wine flowing. This was not a job to them, this was not a business that they wanted to create, but rather a calling that required great sacrifice. This sacrifice is not rewarded by riches, but a freedom to forge their own path in the world.
My favorite story has to be that of Sam Bilbro who is the owner and winemaker at Idlewild Wines. His is a story of creating his own path in a family that has deep roots in winemaking. His father did it, his brother do it, but for him to do it he had to make something that was not just unique but spoke to his very soul. He loves Piedmontese wines, and the wines he makes are an expression not just of the place but of himself.
The mastery of the craft. Small batches and big hearts
What makes a craft wine so much better than a massive produced wine, or even the cult wines that have become so popular (we're looking at you The Prisoner!)? Their small batches of production mean that the winemakers can focus on their art. More attention is paid to these wines than the mass produced swill that has been dumped upon us, and we are getting a much better drink as a result.
These craft wines may be small, and sometimes they can be difficult to get your hands on, but more often than not they are fantastic examples of what an amazing experience wine can be. These are the wines we remember forever, wines who's tastes will linger long after the memory of the event has faded.
Taking chances and making something beautiful
One of my favorite winemakers is Barnaby Tuttle of the Teutonic Wine Company. His story is incredible, and his wines even more so. One of the major arteries in the heart of his story is that it was a huge risk. He dropped everything so that he and his wife Olga could start making wine. Inspired by Riesling and other Mosel Valley wines, he just went ahead and did it. Its not about fame, its not about scoring points in Wine Spectator, its because he just knew its what he had to do. It becomes more than passion, it becomes the lifeblood of existence for Barnaby and many other winemakers across the country. They do it because they just fucking love it, and all they could hope for is that you love it to.
When you know this much heart and soul goes into a wine you don't need an expert to tell you whether or not its good. You know its going to be good because they give a damn. You know that inside that bottle is something special waiting for you to enjoy it because the person who made it has dedicated their life to making something you will only enjoy for a moment, and if it catches you at the right moment you will remember it forever.
At the forefront of every wine movement
Small production craft wineries are at the forefront of every major wine movement because they have to be. Coming to the world with fresh, new ideas are often how small wineries can make themselves heard in such a crowded marketplace. Whether that movement is focusing on minimal intervention natural wines, or a new product innovation like drinking wine from a can, we are likely to see small wineries be bold and bring us something we never thought we would want until we went ahead and gave it a try. These winemakers will experiment with new methods like Pet Nat, or try some really obscure grapes like Valdiguie, and that is so fucking awesome because they pull us out of our comfort zones and introduce us to an amazing world of wine that is waiting to be discovered.
America is changing
America is changing in a lot of profound ways. Especially amongst the younger generations, we are collectively crying out for more than the shit products who for years have taken us for granted. Yes, mechanization is cool for a business but we yearn for products that are made by hand using the blood, sweat, and tears of someone dedicated to their craft. Naturally wine is something where we should demand more, because in it we identify so much of ourselves. Our tastes express who we are, what we share with our friends defines our lives and moulds our relationships. In America's craft wineries we get just that, and its time we recognized it for what it is.